America's Health Rankings, in 2020, 28.8% of people
in Alabama reported no physical activity outside of work
in the last 30 days, compared to a national rate of
22.4%. In addition, many rural communities don't have
safe places to walk or ride bicycles, which limits
people's ability to exercise.
The Alabama Cooperative
Extension System uses community-based participatory
research to help coalitions of community members increase
opportunities and improve spaces for physical activity
and access to healthier foods in their rural communities.
Coalitions decide on and implement research-based
interventions related to built environment, healthier
retail options for food, and physical activity
To learn more about ALProHealth, please watch this
Researchers hold focus groups, with 10-15 participants
and lasting 1-3 hours each. The facilitator asks
questions concerning nutrition education, access to
healthy food, and opportunities for physical activity.
The facilitator also posts a map of the community on the
wall so participants can better visualize the community
and identify specific locations being discussed.
Following focus groups, Alabama Extension provides
community coalitions with recommendations to alleviate
previously discussed barriers. Coalition members then
choose which interventions to implement based on what
works best for their unique population and environment.
From 2014 to 2018, 14 coalitions implemented 101
interventions in 16 communities, including adding
playground equipment, installing water fountains and
lighting along trails, and promoting existing physical
activity facilities. For example, the rural community of
Linden made one of its streets safer for pedestrians
and cyclists by narrowing the vehicle travel lanes,
striping new buffered bike lanes on either side, and
adding new crossings and lighting.
Other examples include Barbour and Henry counties
adding healthier snacks to vending machines.
Increasing access to healthier foods and opportunities
for safe and affordable physical activity is often a long
and expensive endeavor. While funding is a challenge,
public perception and acceptance of the initiative can be
one of the largest barriers for making healthy changes in
communities. Oftentimes, the best way to advocate for
long-lasting change is to demonstrate opportunities at a
small scale to build momentum for investing in larger
systemic and policy changes.
Successful implementation of the ALProHealth initiative
is dependent upon effective community coalitions.
Residents provide the local knowledge that is key to
making informed, research-based decisions about the best
ways to solve local problems.
One of the greatest contributors to success of this
initiative is the infrastructure of Cooperative
Extension. Because there is an Extension office in every
county in Alabama, County Extension Coordinators are
familiar with local issues and know the appropriate
stakeholders and community members who can assemble to
solve local issues.
Ruth W. Brock, MEd, Extension Specialist
Alabama Cooperative Extension System – Family and Consumer Sciences firstname.lastname@example.org
Community and faith-based initiatives
Food security and nutrition
Obesity and weight control
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.