Southwest rural Georgia has some of the state’s highest rates of obesity and lowest rates of physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, putting residents at risk for several chronic diseases including cancer. Families can change their home environment to better support improved eating habits and increased regular exercise.
Healthy Homes/Healthy Families assesses the effectiveness of in-home coaching to improve families’ eating and physical activity habits. Researchers train community members to coach families to make nutrition and activity changes in their home environments. Coaches and families create a profile of the home environment by evaluating food found in the home, food preparation methods, and physical activity equipment. Using the profile, the coaches and families develop goals that address deficits in these factors and write the goals into a family contract.
Coaches work with a study group of 150 families from six rural counties over six months. Each family has at least two adults per household. Coaches guide the family toward their goals during home visits and telephone calls. At the start of the program and 6 and 12 months later, participants complete surveys about their physical activity and fruit, vegetable, and fat intake. Researchers work with a community advisory board to develop and refine data collection instruments and coaching materials. A comparison group of 150 families receives educational brochures with guidelines about healthy eating and physical activity and completes the same series of surveys. Researchers will compare the responses to determine the effectiveness of the coaching intervention.
When researchers understand which aspects of coaching are successful, the program will be refined and made into an easy-to-use package with a training program for potential users. The center may offer small grants and free training and technical assistance to local organizations or agencies that want to try the program in their area.