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Rural Health Information Hub

Health Motivator Program

  • Need: To increase physical activity and other healthy habits for older adults in West Virginia.
  • Intervention: Community members called Health Motivators lead senior centers and community groups in a monthly educational activity.
  • Results: In a 2016 survey, 97% of Health Motivators and 92% of group members said that their health improved because of the program.


Promising (About evidence-level criteria)


In 2007, the West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Service created the Health Motivator Program to teach and encourage healthy habits in senior centers; community groups like women's clubs and church circles; and the Community Educational Outreach Service (CEOS) organization, which has 3,400 members across the state. Each year, the program explores a different aspect of health: The 2019 theme was "Healthy Facts, Fads, and Fiction."

WVUES logo

Along with more urban locations, the program reaches community organizations and residents in 23 rural counties.

Services offered

Community groups designate a Health Motivator to receive free educational materials from the WVU Extension Service and lead the group in a monthly activity throughout the year. Health Motivators also receive calendars in which they and their club members can keep track of daily physical activity and other targeted health habits.

Each monthly activity includes Talking Points (in which Health Motivators share facts about that month's topic) and a Quick Club Activity (which includes some form of physical activity like stretching or Chair Zumba). Each monthly topic includes monthly challenges, jokes, and recipes. Throughout the year, Health Motivators serve as role models to their group members and then complete the Record Form at the end of the year.


The 2016 Health Motivator Effectiveness Study surveyed Health Motivators, WVU Extension Service agents, and CEOS members to determine the program's effectiveness. In a survey of 357 participants, researchers found that:

  • There was an average of 10 Health Motivator activities per year, lasting about 10 minutes each
  • 97% of Health Motivators said that the program affected their own health habits
  • 92% of CEOS members said that their health improved because of the program, with 75.1% reporting that they were more physically active
  • 97.3% of CEOS members said they learned new things from Health Motivator activities
  • 47.9% of CEOS members said they shared their new knowledge with someone else

For more information about the Health Motivator Program:

Crum, G., Bowen, E., Hutson, Z., Kaczor, C., Prinzo, L., Roberts, D., ... & Burkhart Polk, M.E. (2018). Health Motivators: A Study of an Integrated, Peer-Led Health Initiative with Older Women. The Journal of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, 13, 156-166.


Program coordinators report that this is an easy program to run but there may be a few challenges when getting started, such as lack of community awareness and buy-in of the program. Coordinators gained community buy-in by:

  • Identifying potential organizations and their leaders
  • Sharing the Health Motivator Flyer and educational materials
  • Offering to train potential Health Motivators and familiarizing them with the materials and their uses


West Virginia groups interested in joining the Health Motivator program can request educational materials from their county WVU Extension Service office.

Once Health Motivators have been established, program coordinators should check in with them periodically and offer support as needed. Health Motivators can ask club members for ideas in planning activities. This step can make monthly activities more personal to the group and help group members feel more invested in the program.

Other resources:

Contact Information

Tony Michael, Family & Community Development Program Director
West Virginia University Extension Service

Community and faith-based initiatives
Elderly population
Physical activity

States served
West Virginia

Date added
July 25, 2017

Date updated or reviewed
November 30, 2020

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Health Motivator Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 3 July 2022]

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.