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Published Online: 2 June 2015

A Community-Based Intervention Increases Physical Activity and Reduces Obesity in School-Age Children in North Carolina

Publication: Childhood Obesity
Volume 11, Issue Number 3


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.

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Published In

cover image Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity
Volume 11Issue Number 3June 2015
Pages: 297 - 303
PubMed: 25938983


Published online: 2 June 2015
Published in print: June 2015
Published ahead of print: 4 May 2015


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Sara E. Benjamin Neelon
Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Durham, NC.
Duke Global Health Institute, Durham, NC.
Rebecca J. Namenek Brouwer
Duke Global Health Institute, Durham, NC.
Truls Østbye
Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Durham, NC.
Duke Global Health Institute, Durham, NC.
Kelly R. Evenson
Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC.
Brian Neelon
Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.
Annie Martinie
Alamance County Health Department, Burlington, NC.
Gary Bennett
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC.


Address correspondence to:Sara E. Benjamin Neelon, PhD, MPH, RDAssociate ProfessorDepartment of Community and Family MedicineDuke University Medical Center and Duke Global Health InstituteDuke University2200 West Main StreetDUMC 104006Durham, NC 27705E-mail: [email protected]

Author Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

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