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Reliability and validity of Web‐SPAN, a web‐based method for assessing weight status, diet and physical activity in youth

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Background:  Web‐based surveys are becoming increasing popular. The present study aimed to assess the reliability and validity of the Web‐Survey of Physical Activity and Nutrition (Web‐SPAN) for self‐report of height and weight, diet and physical activity by youth.

Methods:  School children aged 11–15 years (grades 7–9; n =459) participated in the school‐based research (boys, n =225; girls, n =233; mean age, 12.8 years). Students completed Web‐SPAN (self‐administered) twice and participated in on‐site school assessments [height, weight, 3‐day food/pedometer record, Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Children (PAQ‐C), shuttle run]. Intraclass (ICC) and Pearson’s correlation coefficients and paired samples t‐tests were used to assess the test–retest reliability of Web‐SPAN and to compare Web‐SPAN with the on‐site assessments.

Results:  Test–retest reliability for height (ICC = 0.90), weight (ICC = 0.98) and the PAQ‐C (ICC = 0.79) were highly correlated, whereas correlations for nutrients were not as strong (ICC = 0.37–0.64). There were no differences between Web‐SPAN times 1 and 2 for height and weight, although there were differences for the PAQ‐C and most nutrients. Web‐SPAN was strongly correlated with the on‐site assessments, including height (ICC = 0.88), weight (ICC = 0.93) and the PAQ‐C (ICC = 0.70). Mean differences for height and the PAQ‐C were not significant, whereas mean differences for weight were significant resulting in an underestimation of being overweight/obesity prevalence (84% agreement). Correlations for nutrients were in the range 0.24–0.40; mean differences were small but generally significantly different. Correlations were weak between the web‐based PAQ‐C and 3‐day pedometer record (r =0.28) and 20‐m shuttle run (r =0.28).

Conclusions:  Web‐SPAN is a time‐ and cost‐effective method that can be used to assess the diet and physical activity status of youth in large cross‐sectional studies and to assess group trends (weight status).
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 2: Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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