The Influence of Gain-Framed and Loss-Framed Health Messages on Nutrition and Physical Activity Knowledge

Deborah S. Fetter, Madan Dharmar, Suzanne Lawry-Hall, Jona Pressman, Jamie Chapman, Rachel E. Scherr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background. Research remains inconclusive about the most effective frame for encouraging health preventative behaviors. Aims. To examine the impact of gain- and loss-framed health messages on nutrition and physical activity (PA) knowledge in fourth-grade youth participating in the Shaping Healthy Choices Program (SHCP), a multicomponent nutrition program. Methods. Youth were recruited to participate in this 9-month quasi-experimental study and divided into 3 groups: (1) comparison (n = 50), (2) loss-framed (n = 76), and (3) gain-framed (n = 67). All youth participated in the SHCP, and the gain- and loss-framed groups also viewed weekly health messages. Paired t tests or Wilcoxon signed-rank test, ANOVA (analysis of variance), and Bonferroni for multiple comparisons were used for analysis. Results. Youth who participated in the SHCP improved nutrition knowledge (+2.0 points; P <.01) and PA knowledge (+1.8 points; P <.01). Nutrition knowledge improved in the comparison group (+1.3 points; P =.04), loss-framed group (+1.9 points; P =.01), and gain-framed group (+2.6 points; P =.01). Improvements in PA knowledge were also demonstrated in the comparison group (+1.6 points; P <.01), the loss-framed group (+1.3 points; P <.01), and the gain-framed group (+2.5 points; P =.01). There were no significant differences between groups. Youth in the loss-framed group reported a decrease in self-efficacy (−1.2; P =.05), while this was not observed in the other groups. Discussion. The SHCP improves nutrition and PA knowledge, and the positive reinforcement further strengthens some of these improvements, while loss-framed messaging can contribute to undesirable outcomes. Conclusions. Incorporating positive reinforcement through gain-framed messages can be a relatively low-cost avenue for supporting beneficial outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlobal Pediatric Health
StatePublished - 2019


  • childhood obesity
  • message framing
  • nutrition education
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pediatrics


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