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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

The need to modify physical activity messages to better speak to older African American women: a pilot study

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
PhD Emerson Sebastião, PhD Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD Andiara Schwingel
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

ES conducted all aspects of the study, including designing the study, data collection, interpretation of the data and writing the manuscript. AS and WCZ supervised the study, cooperated in its design and coordination and conducted the final critical review in the manuscript. The final manuscript has been read and approved by all authors.

Authors’ information

ES recently earned his PhD in Kinesiology, where his research focused on physical activity, health, and underserved groups. AS is a PhD in Preventive Medicine and a Professor at the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health conducting research on minorities health and teaching Gerontology and Global Health. WCZ is a Professor and Head of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health who have more than 20 years of experience in the study of Physical Activity, Aging and Public Health.



Combating the physical inactivity crisis and improving health and quality of life is a challenge and a public health priority, especially in underserved populations. A key role of public health consists of informing, educating, and empowering individuals and communities about health issues. Researchers have found that mass communication messages often have limited effectiveness in reaching and impacting the health of underserved populations. The present pilot study was designed to explore perceptions of older African American women (AAW) in response to widely disseminated public information pertaining to physical activity (PA) and aging.


A total of 10 older AAW aged 60 years and over participated in this study. Participants were evenly assigned in one of the 2 focus groups (i.e. active, n = 5; and inactive, n = 5) based on their PA level. The focus group approach was employed to gather information about widely available public information materials related to PA that target the adult and older adult population. The three guides used were: (1) Exercise and Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide; (2) The Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults; and (3) Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults. NVIVO 10 software was used to help in the qualitative data analysis. Descriptive thematic analysis was employed in identifying, analyzing and reporting patterns/themes within the data.


Older AAW in the present study identified some shortcomings in current public health materials. Participants from both focus groups raised concerns regarding language and the types of activities used as examples in the materials. After analysis, two themes emerged: “We may have trouble in reading it” and “It does not reflect us”. Participants’ evaluation was found to be similar between the active and inactive focus groups.


Older AAW’s perceptions of the materials suggest that materials intended to educate and motivate the general public towards PA need to be modified to better speak to older African American women, especially to those who are sedentary and have difficulty in building PA into their daily lives.
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