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UCLA study of community health project shows how group dynamics affect fitness, eating habits

Imagine break-room vending machines featuring fruit juice and vegetables instead of cookies and soda pop. Consider colleagues who insist on mid-morning group exercise breaks and applaud a lunchtime workout rather than criticizing the cut of the sweat suit. Ponder an organizational culture that encourages walking the stairs instead of riding the elevator.

A UCLA-evaluated study of a demonstration project led by Community Health Councils, Inc. (CHC) in Los Angeles shows how incorporating physical activity and healthy eating into an office or other organizational culture pays dividends for participants.

Published in the July 2006 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Health Promotion Practice, the study finds that a six-week wellness-training program significantly increases vigorous physical activity among participants. A 12-week curriculum, meanwhile, boosts fruit and vegetable intake while reducing feelings of sadness and depression, and can even reduce waistlines.

"Creating a culture of healthy living within an organizational framework requires buy-in by leadership, staff and clientele," said Dr. Antronette K. Yancey, lead author of the study and associate professor of health services at the UCLA School of Public Health. "Both the physical and social environment must change.

"The model we studied holds promise for extending the reach of worksite wellness programming to organizations, at-risk populations and communities not traditionally engaged by such efforts," she added. "However, many obstacles to organizational and individual engagement are apparent. Recommendations include offering a flexible menu of options that may be tailored to each organization and developing strong intra-organizational connections throughout the program to improve sustainability."

The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) 2010 demonstration project, led by Los Angeles-based Community Health Councils, adapted and implemented an
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Source:University of California - Los Angeles


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