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StrongPeople™ Program

Summary 
  • Need: Few older adults, particularly women and those in rural areas, participate in healthy living interventions.
  • Intervention: Health educators lead community-based healthy living classes, which include strength training, aerobic exercise, dietary skill building, and/or civic engagement, depending on the program.
  • Results: StrongPeople™ programs have been shown to improve weight, diet, physical activity, strength, cardiovascular health profile, physical function, pain, depression, and/or self-confidence in midlife and older adults.

Evidence-level

Evidence-Based (About evidence-level criteria)

Description

StrongPeople logo StrongPeople™ first began as a program called StrongWomen™, designed by Dr. Miriam Nelson after her research study examining the effects of strength training on bone density and other risk factors for osteoporosis. She found that midlife and older women could safely improve bone density and muscle mass through progressive strength training. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994, and Dr. Nelson began the StrongWomen book series, focusing on innovative research related to nutrition, fitness, chronic disease, and community health.

In 2002, prompted by two Extension educators in Alaska and Kansas, Dr. Nelson partnered with Dr. Seguin-Fowler, and together they developed the StrongWomen Program Tool Kit, which translated the 1994 research findings into a formalized community-based program for implementation by Extension educators and other allied health professionals. In 2003, the curriculum was released and the first programs were launched.

Because of their community-based nature, these programs are often offered in rural areas where other opportunities may be lacking and barriers to healthy living may be unique. The programs include strength training, aerobic exercise, dietary skills training, and/or civic engagement. They provide an opportunity for participants to build skills, confidence, and socialize.

Services offered

older adults exercise - StrongPeople Program
Photo credit: Oregon State University

StrongPeople Strong Bodies

The Strong Bodies Program is a nationally disseminated evidence-based community strength training program. It is disseminated through a strong nationwide partnership with Extension educators as well as several healthcare systems. Strong Bodies has nearly 4,000 community health educators trained to implement the program, with regional Ambassadors in Alaska, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin who conduct trainings in their state and for other states as needed. In research studies, participants improved muscle mass, muscle strength, bone density, body fat, balance, physical activity, blood sugar, blood pressure, physical function, pain, depression, and self-confidence.

StrongPeople Healthy Weight

Healthy Weight is an evidence-based healthy living curriculum that includes aerobic exercise and dietary skills training. It has demonstrated effectiveness at improving diet, physical activity behaviors, and body weight among midlife and older women. National dissemination research was supported by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant, in which over 30 states and 90 communities participated.

StrongPeople Change Clubs

StrongPeople developed the Change Clubs, also known as HEART Clubs, curriculum in 2011. The goal of the Change Club process is to harness the collective power of local residents to advocate for community-level change targeting chronic disease prevention through improved access to healthier food and physical activity environments and related policies.

StrongPeople Healthy Hearts

In 2013, Dr. Seguin-Fowler was awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to integrate the three core programs into a multilevel, multicomponent intervention aiming to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors in medically underserved rural communities: StrongPeople Healthy Hearts, previously known as Strong Hearts, Healthy Communities.

Results

  • StrongPeople Strong Bodies has nearly 4,000 community health educators trained to implement the program.
  • Approximately 1,500 StrongPeople Healthy Weight educators have been trained. The program was originally tested with Extension partners in a randomized control trial in Kansas and Arkansas in 2007.
  • StrongPeople Healthy Hearts participants demonstrated significant, clinically meaningful improvements in body weight, diet, physical activity, and strength. Their overall cardiovascular health profile also improved, as measured by the American Heart Association's Simple 7 score. Intervention participants' friends and family members also improved their own body weight and health. The trial was implemented in two phases across a total of 27 towns in Montana and New York in collaboration with Extension and local healthcare partners.
  • StrongPeople Change Clubs are being evaluated by a National Institutes of Health funded (R01) study, in which 12 rural towns across New York and Texas were randomly assigned to implement (or delayed to implement) evidence-based policy, system, and environmental (PSE) interventions using the Change Club curriculum. The study includes rigorous evaluation among the Extension educator facilitators, Change Club members (those who lead implementation in the towns), and their social networks, and with town residents in each community, including population-wide health outcome assessments. This is the first study of its kind with a randomized design evaluating real-world, resident-led PSE intervention effects on population health.
  • StrongPeople programs have been shown to improve weight, diet, physical activity, strength, cardiovascular health profile, physical function, pain, depression, and/or self-confidence in midlife and older adults.

Programs and program results:

StrongPeople Strong Bodies

StrongPeople Healthy Hearts

StrongPeople Change Clubs

StrongPeople Healthy Weight

For more in-depth information on the programs, see the Research Articles section of the StrongPeople website.

Challenges

Participants have given the programs predominantly positive feedback, often mentioning the camaraderie between group members as a motivating factor to make positive lifestyle changes. Recommendations from the participants include offering programs three days a week, longer exercise sessions, and longer program duration (for 12-week programs). For civic engagement groups, participant-reported challenges include competing priorities and limited finances for projects. At times, trained leaders do not implement the program; a primary reason is changing jobs or retirement.

Replication

For a fee, StrongPeople provides training, a comprehensive toolkit, and other resources for leaders on their website. Trained leaders then offer the programs to the participants, typically done with low cost to the participants.

Contact Information

Rebecca Seguin-Fowler, PhD, RDN, LD, CSCS, Director
StrongPeople Program
info@strongpeopleprogram.org

Topics
Aging and aging-related services
Cardiovascular disease
Elderly population
Obesity and weight control
Physical activity
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention

States served
National/Multi-State

Date added
July 8, 2021

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2021. StrongPeople™ Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1092 [Accessed 25 October 2021]


Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.