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Rural Obesity and Weight Control – Models and Innovations

These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.

Effective Examples

Rural Restaurant Healthy Options Program
Updated/reviewed September 2020
  • Need: Obesity is a widespread epidemic in the United States, especially in rural areas. Due to small profit margins and fear of losing customers, small owner-operated rural restaurants hesitate to make health-conscious changes to their menus.
  • Intervention: The Healthy Options Program offered an economical and low-maintenance program for owner-operated restaurants in Iowa to increase awareness of already existing healthy menu options and substitutions.
  • Results: Restaurants received positive feedback and experienced no financial loss. Customers noticed and appreciated the healthy option reminders, and ordering behavior improved.
HEALTH-COP Obesity Prevention
Updated/reviewed August 2020
  • Need: Many physicians want to help rural children who are overweight or obese develop healthy lifestyles, and these physicians would benefit from receiving training on specific ways to instruct, motivate, and manage the healthcare of these children.
  • Intervention: A virtual learning network called Healthy Eating Active Living TeleHealth Community of Practice (HEALTH-COP) was created to educate rural physicians and provide peer support.
  • Results: Studies showed an increase in health and wellness topics covered by physicians during children's clinic visits. This likely contributed to healthier eating habits and more active lifestyles that were found when these children were reassessed 3 months later.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Trinity Hospital Twin City's Fit for Life
Updated/reviewed November 2018
  • Need: To reduce obesity among adults in rural east central Ohio.
  • Intervention: Fit for Life Replication Project for Expansion was developed to make it possible to lose weight through practicing healthier lifestyle behaviors.
  • Results: Out of the 443 adults who have completed the program, 81% experienced weight loss, a tangible result of the program's overarching goal to enhance levels of health and fitness.

Promising Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Healthy Early Learning Project (HELP)
Updated/reviewed August 2020
  • Need: An ongoing health need to alleviate early childhood obesity in the rural Kansas counties of Marshall and Nemaha.
  • Intervention: 5 distinct physical and nutritional programs were introduced to 9 preschool sites through the overarching Healthy Early Learning Project (HELP).
  • Results: HELP comprehensively increased children's physical activity and healthy food consumption and established a sustainable presence at each preschool site.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Youth4Health
Updated/reviewed December 2019
  • Need: To educate youth about obesity and healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Intervention: An educational program about healthy living was implemented in Lincoln and Claiborne Parishes in Louisiana for youth ages 9-18.
  • Results: Youth4Health program produced greater awareness and participation in healthier lifestyles by target youth and their families, as well as church congregations.

Other Project Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Win With Wellness
Updated/reviewed June 2020
  • Need: To reduce risk of obesity and chronic disease in rural northwest Illinois.
  • Intervention: Win With Wellness (WWW) collaborates with community organizations and worksites to improve physical activity and eating behaviors and reduce weight among adults using a multi-component approach.
  • Results: From 2015 to 2018, the two participating counties initiated 28 Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) groups with 367 participants. In the second round of funding, WWW recruited 183 participants for 9 TOPS groups and 8 community Heart-to-Heart sites.
KÅ«lana Hawai'i Weight Management Program
Updated/reviewed May 2019
  • Need: To improve the health status and overall well-being of Native Hawaiians and other medically underserved populations in rural areas of Hawaii.
  • Intervention: A comprehensive weight management program is led by an integrated team of health professionals who work with participants on making sustainable, lifelong changes.
  • Results: Patients reported statistically significant reductions in weight, BMI, blood pressure, and chronic disease and pain, along with increased physical activity and health knowledge.
Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative
Updated/reviewed April 2019
  • Need: Data from around 2008 demonstrated that close to 70% of adults and 37% of children ages 4 and under in Northeast Iowa are overweight or obese.
  • Intervention: An 6-county initiative that provided support and access to locally-grown, healthy foods, along with promotion of active lifestyles, particularly for rural children.
  • Results: As of 2019, the program continues to engage communities and schools in healthy activities and food choices

Last Updated: 9/11/2020