Longitudinal social networks impacts on weight and weight-related behaviors assessed using mobile-based ecological momentary assessments: Study Protocols for the SPARC study

Meredith Bruening, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Alexandra Slade, Melissa Laska, Michael Todd, Daniel Hruschka, David R. Schaefer, Corrie Whisner, Genevieve Dunton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Background: The transition from the home to college is a phase in which emerging adults shift toward more unhealthy eating and physical activity patterns, higher body mass indices, thus increasing risk of overweight/obesity. Currently, little is understood about how changing friendship networks shape weight gain behaviors. This paper describes the recruitment, data collection, and data analytic protocols for the SPARC (Social impact of Physical Activity and nutRition in College) study, a longitudinal examination of the mechanisms by which friends and friendship networks influence nutrition and physical activity behaviors and weight gain in the transition to college life. Methods: The SPARC study aims to follow 1450 university freshmen from a large university over an academic year, collecting data on multiple aspects of friends and friendship networks. Integrating multiple types of data related to student lives, ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) are administered via a cell phone application, devilSPARC. EMAs collected in four 1-week periods (a total of 4 EMA waves) are integrated with linked data from web-based surveys and anthropometric measurements conducted at four times points (for a total of eight data collection periods including EMAs, separated by ~1 month). University databases will provide student card data, allowing integration of both time-dated data on food purchasing, use of physical activity venues, and geographical information system (GIS) locations of these activities relative to other students in their social networks. Discussion: Findings are intended to guide the development of more effective interventions to enhance behaviors among college students that protect against weight gain during college.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number901
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 30 2016



  • College freshmen
  • Dieting
  • Eating behaviors
  • Emerging adults
  • Friendship
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Social network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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