A community health worker-led lifestyle behavior intervention for Latina (Hispanic) women: feasibility and outcomes of a randomized controlled trial

Deborah Koniak-Griffin, Mary-Lynn Brecht, Sumiko Takayanagi, Juan Villegas, Marylee Melendrez, Héctor Balcázar
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2015, 52 (1): 75-87

BACKGROUND: Low-income Latinas (Hispanics) face risk for cardiovascular disease due to high rates of overweight/obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and other factors. Limited access to health care and language barriers may prevent delivery of health promotion messages. Targeted approaches, including the integration of community health workers, may be required to promote healthy lifestyle and prevent chronic disease in underserved ethnic minority groups. The term commonly used to refer to female community health workers in Latino communities is "promotora(s)."

OBJECTIVES: This study evaluates the outcomes and feasibility of a promotora-led lifestyle behavior intervention for overweight, immigrant Latinas.

METHODS: A community prevention model was employed in planning and implementing this study. A randomized controlled trial design was used. A Community Advisory Board provided expertise in evaluating feasibility of study implementation in the community and other important guidance. The sample was comprised of 223 women aged 35-64 years, predominantly with low income and ≤8th grade education. The culturally tailored Lifestyle Behavior Intervention included group education (8 classes based upon Su Corazon, Su Vida), followed by 4 months of individual teaching and coaching (home visits and telephone calls). The control group received a comparable length educational program and follow-up contacts. Evaluations were conducted at baseline and at 6 and 9 months using a dietary habits questionnaire, accelerometer readings of physical activity, and clinical measures (body mass index, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, lipids, blood glucose). Data were collected between January 2010 and August 2012.

RESULTS: Women in the intervention group improved significantly in dietary habits, waist circumference, and physical activity in comparison to those in the control group. A treatment dosage effect was observed for weight and waist circumference. Knowledge about heart disease increased. High attendance at classes and participation in the individual teaching and counseling sessions and high retention rates support the feasibility and acceptability of the promotora-led lifestyle behavior intervention.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate that lifestyle behaviors and other risk factors of overweight Latina women may be improved through a promotora-led lifestyle behavior intervention. Feasibility of implementing this intervention in community settings and engaging promotoras as facilitators is supported.

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