Reducing obesity, through improved nutrition and increased physical activity is one of the goals of the CDC's Winnable Battles initiative. Reducing obesity in rural residents is especially important since they are more likely to be obese than urban residents. Indeed, Iowa residents rank 33rd of 50 states in the percent of residents who are obese and half of Iowa's adults do not meet PA recommendations. Effective interventions to increase PA in rural micropolitan (<50,000 residents) communities are scant since most evidence-based interventions have been tested in urban or suburban areas. In the Midwest, these micropolitan communities are also "new destination" locations for an influx of Latino populations. The Prevention Research Center for Rural Health (PRC-RH), with a focus on obesity, addresses the health challenges of residents of micropolitan and other rural communities in Iowa through a variety of Center activities and resources as well as the implementation of an intervention research project, ActiveOttumwa. PRC-RH Center activities include maintenance of an infrastructure with cores focusing on community engagement, communication and dissemination of PRC-RH research and best practices, training of public health professionals, students and community members, and evaluation of PRC-RH activities. The PRC-RH has vibrant partnerships with the Iowa Department of Public Health, an active Community Advisory Board, with local health department and community organization representation, in Ottumwa, Iowa, a micropolitan new destination community. The PRC-RH intervention research project, Active Ottumwa focuses on increasing physical activity in Ottumwa by determining the effectiveness of a community-based PA intervention that uses a lay health advisor (LHA) approach - to implement evidence-based PA strategies. Based on the available evidence and strategies from the Community Guide, the Active Ottumwa will implement activities at three levels of influence: 1) community-wide campaigns (e.g. newspaper, TV, and radio announcements, website exposure and public health education programs;2) behavioral and social support interventions (e.g. behavioral contracts, buddy systems, goal-setting to promote and support PA activities;and 3) land-use policies and access to places for PA, (.e.g. working with local governmental officials and agencies and community leaders to advocate, improve and create opportunities for access and use of facilities for PA). To evaluate Active Ottumwa, mixed methods will be used including a community-wide survey;longitudinal follow up of a cohort of residents that will complete accelerometry, physical and anthropometric measures and survey data;observational measures;key informant in-depth interviews;and project documentation. The research project and PRC-RH will address a major evidence gap in our PA knowledge by adapting intervention strategies tested in urban and suburban areas to a micropolitan new destination community in a rural state.
The Center activities and its research focus on the issue of obesity in rural populations. The intervention research project focus on increasing physical activity in a micropolitan rural community by adapting recommended and evidence based strategies from urban settings addresses a gap in our scientific knowledge of Physical Activity interventions in rural communities.