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J Hum Nutr Diet. 2012 Feb;25(1):59-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2011.01181.x. Epub 2011 May 27.

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

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  • 1School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.



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.


School children aged 11-15years (grades 7-9; n=459) participated in the school-based research (boys, n=225; girls, n=233; mean age, 12.8years). 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.


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).


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).

© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics © 2011 The British Dietetic Association Ltd.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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