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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 October 2017
  • Need: Obesity has become a widespread health epidemic in the United States, especially in rural areas. Due to small profit margins and the fear of customer loss, small owner-operated rural restaurants are hesitant 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 community feedback and experienced no financial loss. Customers noticed and appreciated the healthy option reminders, and ordering behavior was impacted in a healthy way.
HEALTH-COP Obesity Prevention
Updated/reviewed August 2017
  • 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.

Promising Examples

funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Healthy Early Learning Project (HELP)
Updated/reviewed May 2018
  • 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 Trinity Hospital Twin City's Fit for Life
Updated/reviewed November 2017
  • 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.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Youth4Health
Updated/reviewed September 2017
  • 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 February 2018
  • Need: To reduce risk of obesity and chronic disease in rural northwest Illinois.
  • Intervention: Win with Wellness encourages participants in community settings and at different workplaces to make small, incremental changes to their diets and activity levels through a multi-component approach.
  • Results: Since 2015, the two participating counties have started 27 Take Off Pounds Sensibly groups with 352 participants and conducted 19 Heart-to-Heart health education sessions, reaching 348 participants.
Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative
Updated/reviewed January 2018
  • Need: Close to 70% of adults and 37% of children ages 4 and under in Northeast Iowa are overweight or obese.
  • Intervention: An initiative that provided support and access to locally-grown, healthy foods, along with promotion of active lifestyles, particularly for children.
  • Results: As of 2017, the program continues to engage communities and schools in healthy activities and food choices
Diabetes and Heart Disease Intervention Program
Added December 2017
  • Need: To reduce patients' risk of diabetes and heart disease in rural southwest Mississippi.
  • Intervention: A program based on the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program helps participants with cardiometabolic syndrome reduce at least 7% of their body weight and normalize blood pressure and glucose through lifestyle modifications.
  • Results: In 2016, 22 program graduates lost a total of 300 pounds. As of November 2017, this year's 50 participants collectively have lost over 500 pounds and reduced blood pressure levels.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Healthy Families
Updated/reviewed November 2017
  • Need: High obesity rates among preschool children are a public health concern.
  • Intervention: The Healthy Families program was created to provide school-based obesity prevention and intervention in preschools throughout three Michigan counties.
  • Results: Healthy Families provided education on nutrition and physical fitness to hundreds of preschool children and their families, helping children maintain or improve their BMI and instill lifelong healthy habits.
Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center Rural MOVE! Outreach Program
Updated/reviewed May 2017
  • Need: To bring weight management education to veterans living in rural Virginia.
  • Intervention: The Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center created an outreach team to hold classes in rural communities that focus on physical activity, healthy eating habits, and making healthy behavioral choices.
  • Results: The outreach initiative is the only VA-sponsored weight management program of its kind for rural communities in the Virginia region, and in 2015, they reached over 900 participants.
KÅ«lana Hawai'i Weight Management Program
Updated/reviewed May 2017
  • 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 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.
proACTIVE Wellness Initiative
Updated/reviewed May 2016
  • Need: A community health needs assessment indicated a need for worksite wellness in rural Black River Falls, Wisconsin.
  • Intervention: A workplace wellness initiative, which promotes healthy lifestyle behaviors, was implemented at 3 Black Rivers Falls businesses by local hospital employees.
  • Results: Employees at every involved worksites experienced health improvements of some kind.

Last Updated: 5/17/2018