Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 14619720
Project Title(English) : A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial of School-based Physical Activity Intervention on Mental Health and Risk Behaviours in Adolescents with Special Educational Needs 
Project Title(Chinese) : 校本體力活動干預對有特殊教育需要青少年的心理健康和危險行為的集群隨機對照研究 
Principal Investigator(English) : Prof Sit, Cindy Hui-ping 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Dept of Sports Science & Physical Education
Institution : The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Prof A-Nicitopoulos , Kelly
Prof Ho, Tin Hung, Rainbow
Prof Wong, Stephen Heung-sang
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Education
Exercise Year : 2020 / 21
Fund Approved : 791,930
Project Status : On-going
Completion Date : 31-12-2023
Abstract as per original application
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are the leading disease burden, affecting up to 20% of adolescents globally. Mental health problems are associated with risk behaviours such as school dropouts, aggression, suicidal ideation and suicide. Evidence indicates that adolescents with special educational needs (SEN) such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have poorer mental health and higher risk behaviours than those with typical development. More than half of all mental health problems emerge during adolescence and continue into adulthood, so early effective interventions are therefore important. Little is known about the associations of physical activity with reduced mental health problems and risk behaviours in adolescents with SEN. Recently, our research team has conducted a pilot school-based physical activity intervention in this group and found immediate positive effects on increased physical activity and reduced anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. We also found that physical activity was strongly associated with resilience, an ability to overcome obstacles and achieve positive outcomes in the face of diversity and life stresses. Future research is needed to determine whether improved mental health can translate into decreases in risk behaviours in the longer term. Grounded in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health for Children and Youth (ICF-CY) framework, this study is the first cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine the effects of a school-based physical activity intervention on the mental health and risk behaviours of adolescents with SEN. It is also the first study to use salivary cortisol as a biomarker of stress in Hong Kong adolescents with SEN. Based on a power calculation, 240 adolescents with SEN in twelve Hong Kong secondary mainstream schools will be cluster randomized allocated into either a 12-week physical activity intervention or a control condition. Measurements of mental health and risk behaviours will be conducted at (i) baseline, (ii) post-intervention (immediately after 12-week intervention), (iii) 3-month after post-intervention, and (iv) 12-month after post-intervention. This cluster RCT brings experts in physical activity interventions together, and the findings will assist educators and education and healthcare policy makers to develop early treatment strategies and to introduce school-based health promotion practices for adolescents with SEN. In the longer term, our aim is to develop a territory-wide school-based physical activity policy (lunchbreak “exercise-snack” program) in mainstream schools in Hong Kong.
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