University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health

Increasing Physical Activity Among Rural Residents


Rural residents have poorer health than urban residents. They have higher rates of chronic disease and poor overall health, live in areas with fewer medical providers, and are more likely to be uninsured.  Rural Americans are also more likely to be obese and less likely to engage in physical activity.  In 2012, Iowa ranked 33rd of 50 states in the CDC Winnable Battle of obesity, while ranking 24th in physical activity.

Researchers at the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health are implementing Active Ottumwa, an intervention to increase physical activity in Ottumwa using a lay health advisor. Men and women age 18 years and older living in Ottumwa, Iowa will be recruited to participate in the program.  Based on the available evidence and strategies from The Community Guide, Active Ottumwa implements activities at three levels of  influence:

  • Community-wide campaigns – such as, newspaper, TV, and radio announcements, website exposure and public health education programs
  • Behavioral and social support interventions – such as, behavioral contracts, buddy systems, goal-setting to promote and support physical activity
  • Land-use policies and access to places for physical activity – such as, working with local governmental officials and agencies and community leaders to advocate, improve and create opportunities for access and use of facilities for physical activity

The evaluation will assess whether the intervention increases the proportion of adult community residents who meet the U.S Physical Activity Guidelines and whether adults engage in more daily minutes moderate to vigorous physical activity.  Active Ottumwa is being evaluated to determine the effectiveness of this community-based physical activity intervention that uses lay health advisors. Research findings will also address whether the adaptation of intervention strategies tested in urban and suburban areas are effective when implemented in rural communities.

Project Identifier Increasing Physical Activity Among Rural Residents

Funding Source PRC Program

Project Status Active

Host Institution University of Iowa

Health Topics Physical activity

Research setting Rural area

Race or ethnicity No specific focus

Gender No specific focus

Age group Young adults (18-24 years)

Contact Information Center
University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health
145 N. Riverside Drive

100 College of Public Health Bldg., Room N436
Iowa City, IA 52242

Center Principal Investigator/Director
Edith A. Parker, DrPH, MPH
Phone: (319) 384-1503

Core Principal Investigator/Deputy Director
Barbara Baquero, PhD
Phone: (319) 384-1480