A community-based intervention increases physical activity and reduces obesity in school-age children in North Carolina

Sara E. Benjamin Neelon, Rebecca J. Namenek Brouwer, Truls Østbye, Kelly R. Evenson, Brian Neelon, Annie Martinie, Gary Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Community-based interventions are promising approaches to obesity prevention, but few studies have prospectively evaluated them. The aim of this study was to evaluate a natural experiment - a community intervention designed to promote active living and decrease obesity within a small southern town. Methods: In 2011, community leaders implemented the Mebane on the Move intervention - a community-wide effort to promote physical activity (PA) and decrease obesity among residents of Mebane, North Carolina. We measured child PA and BMI before and after the intervention, using a nearby town not implementing an intervention as the comparison. In total, we assessed 64 children from Mebane and 40 from the comparison community 6 months before, as well as 34 and 18 children 6 months after the intervention. We assessed PA with accelerometers worn for 7 days and calculated BMI z-scores using children's height and weight. We conducted multivariable linear regressions examining pre- to postintervention change in minutes of PA and BMI z-score, adjusting for confounders. Results: At follow-up, children in Mebane modestly increased their moderate-to-vigorous PA (1.3 minutes per hour; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.2, 2.3; p=0.03) and vigorous activity (0.8 minutes per hour; 95% CI: 0.1, 1.5; p=0.04) more than comparison children. In intervention children, BMI z-scores decreased 0.5 units (kg/m2; 95% CI: -0.9, -0.02; p=0.045), compared to children in the comparison community. Conclusions: We observed positive effects on PA level and weight status of children in Mebane, despite high rates of attrition, suggesting that the community-based intervention may have been successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-303
Number of pages7
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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