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Womens Health Issues. 2012 Mar;22(2):e225-32. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2011.10.002. Epub 2011 Dec 11.

Physical activity and nutrition among immigrant and refugee women: a community-based participatory research approach.

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Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Immigrant and refugee populations arrive to the U.S. healthier than the general population, but the longer they reside, the more they approximate the cardiovascular risk profiles of the country. Among women, these declines are partly mediated by less physical activity and lower dietary quality upon immigration. Given the complex forces that influence these behaviors, a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach is appropriate. Therefore, a socioculturally responsive physical activity and nutrition program was created with and for immigrant and refugee women in Rochester, Minnesota, through a CBPR approach.


Focus groups informed program content and revealed principles for designing the sessions. A 6-week program with two, 90-minute classes per week was conducted among 45 women (Hispanic, Somali, Cambodian, and non-immigrant African American). Average attendance was 22.5 women per class; 34 women completed the evaluation.


Evaluation revealed high acceptability (average overall score of 4.85 out of 5 on the Physical Activity Class Satisfaction Questionnaire). After the intervention, participants were more likely to exercise regularly (p ≤ .001). They reported higher health-related quality of life (p ≤ .001) and self-efficacy for diet (p = .36) and exercise (p = .10). Likewise, there were trends for weight loss (87 vs 83.4 kg; p = .65), decreased waist circumference (99.6 vs 95.5 cm; p = .35), and lower blood pressure (125/80 vs 122/76 mm/Hg; p = .27).


A CBPR approach to design and implement a socioculturally responsive fitness program was highly acceptable to immigrant and refugee women and demonstrated promising outcomes. Further testing of physical activity and nutrition interventions that arise organically from target communities are needed.

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