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Know Your Body

Ages 5-12

Rating: Level 3


Know Your Body (KYB), initially developed in the 1970s by the American Health Foundation, is a comprehensive school health promotion program for students in kindergarten through ninth grade. KYB is designed to encourage positive health behavior and discourage or interrupt behavioral patterns that are linked to illness, injury, disability, or death. This skills-based comprehensive health education curriculum covers health topics such as nutrition, exercise, safety, disease prevention, prevention of cigarette smoking, consumer health issues, dental care, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and violence prevention, as well as citizenship topics. The program provides age-appropriate education about tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Instruction is organized around five “core skills”—self-esteem, decision-making, communication, goal setting, and stress management—with emphasis on critical thinking about advertising and other influences on health decisions. The curriculum, guided by social learning theory, includes instructional strategies such as behavioral contracting, self-monitoring through student journals, and frequent projects in every grade that promote advocacy on health-related issues. This schoolwide program encourages family involvement by sending letters home for parents with every module and by including activities designed to promote interaction with parents. The program also promotes community involvement by inviting community members to speak and assigning projects that encourage students to interact with community members. The posters, song tapes, and student activity books have been translated into seven languages.


Six published studies involving white, African-American, and Latino students from mixed socioeconomic populations in grades 1–9 have evaluated Know Your Body. At least one of these included more than 1,000 participants. In the longest study, students received 4 to 5 years of intervention. Four studies reported improved health outcomes, including reduced smoking at 3- and 5-year follow-ups and reduced cholesterol at posttest and follow-up. Five studies reported reduced blood pressure at posttest and follow-up. Other nutritional and fitness gains varied by study.

One of the most comprehensive evaluations of the effectiveness of the Know Your Body program was a longitudinal, 5-year intervention study of Washington, DC, African-American students who were in grades 4–6 at baseline. Nine schools were stratified on socioeconomic status and randomly assigned to control and intervention groups. One thousand forty-one students participated in the baseline examination of the following risk factors: systolic and diastolic blood pressures, ponderosity index (weight), triceps skinfold thickness, postexercise pulse recovery rate, serum total and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and serum thiocyanate. A total of 892 students also completed questionnaires regarding health attitudes, health behaviors, health knowledge, and psychosocial attributes (e.g., nutrition knowledge, self-esteem, and attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs). The average age of students who participated in the baseline examination was 10.5; 54 percent were female; and 36.4 percent were in the relatively low socioeconomic status group, 28.6 percent were in the middle socioeconomic status group, and 35 percent were in the relatively high socioeconomic status group. Evaluations were done at preintervention and 1, 2, 3, and 5 years following intervention.


After 2 years of intervention, results suggest that the program had a favorable impact on the following risk factors: systolic and diastolic pressures, HDL cholesterol, ratio of total to HDL cholesterol, fitness (postexercise pulse recovery rate), and smoking. More specifically, compared with the control subjects, intervention participants’ responses from baseline to follow-up indicated that significant changes in the favorable direction were found for cigarette attitude, but not for alcohol or marijuana attitudes, or percentage of healthful snacks. There were not significant changes in health locus of control or self-esteem scores. As for self-reported changes in health behaviors such as drinking lowfat milk at home, exercising aerobically, and smoking cigarettes from baseline to follow-up, only cigarette smoking appeared to have favorable program effects—an outcome replicated in the 3- and 5-year follow-ups. Blood pressure reduction was associated with decreased weight and improved fitness, and increased HDL cholesterol was associated with decreased weight. These results are consistent with other evaluations of the Know Your Body program, suggesting that the program may be effective in reducing chronic disease risk in diverse school populations. Limitations of note were attrition, decay of effects between the 3- and 5-year follow-ups, and fidelity to program implementation. Additional research is needed to determine the effect of the program on a broader range of outcomes, to what degree increasing the dosage produces larger and more enduring treatment effects, and the relative impact of the various components that make up the program.

Risk Factors


  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting


  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • Drug Strategies


Bush, Patricia J., Alan E. Zuckerman, Patricia K. Theiss, Virginia S. Taggart, Claire E. Horowitz, Michael J. Sheridan, Heather J. Walter. 1989. “Cardiovascular Risk Factor Prevention in Black Schoolchildren 2-Year Results of the Know Your Body Program.” American Journal of Epidemiology 129:466–82.

Resnicow, Ken, Lisa Cohn, Jayne Reinhardt, Donna Cross, Robert Futterman, Eric Kirschner, and Ernst L. Wynder. 1992. “A 3-Year Evaluation of the Know Your Body Program in Innercity Schoolchildren.” Health Education Quarterly 19:463–80.

Resnicow, Ken, Donna Cross, and Ernst L. Wynder. 1993. “The Know Your Body Program: A Review of Evaluation Studies.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 70:188–206.

Taggart, Virginia S., Patricia J. Bush, Alan E. Zuckerman, and Patricia K. Theiss. 1990. “A Process Evaluation of the District of Columbia ‘Know Your Body’ Project.” Journal of School Health 60:60–66.

Wheeler, R.C.; A.C. Marcus; J.W. Cullen; and E. Konugres. 1983. “Baseline Chronic Disease Risk Factors in a Racially Heterogeneous Elementary Population—The Know Your Body Program, Los Angeles, California, USA.” Preventive Medicine 12:569–87.


Lisa Zenner
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
4050 Westmark Drive
Dubuque, IA 52002
Phone: (800) 247-3458
Fax: (800) 772-9165
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