WSSU Receives Grant to Study Impact of Wellness Coaching on Reducing Obesity

October 17, 2013

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Department of Human Performance and Sport Sciences at Winston-Salem State University has received a $200,000 grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to support a study using a wellness coaching approach to improve obesity outcomes in African American women ages 30 to 65.

The study, entitled "The COACH Approach to Obesity Prevention: Changing Outcomes, Attitude, Character and Health," will focus on developing, implementing and evaluating the impact of a community-based wellness coach and obesity intervention on the health of the target audience.

"African American women have the highest obesity rate in the United States and obesity is a major cause of chronic disease, which means an increase in medical spending," said Dr. Shawn Ricks, assistant professor, program coordinator of rehabilitation studies and the principal investigator of the research study.  The psychological effects of obesity and its impact on obesity prevention are often overlooked and African American women face a unique set of psychological factors that impact their obesity outcomes such as discrimination and stress.  The aim of The COACH Approach is to develop and evaluate a new direction in treating and preventing obesity for this group.

"The projected outcomes will provide critical insights that can impact local and regional policies regarding strategies that are effective in preventing and treating obesity," Ricks added.  "We should have a better understanding of the types of gender-specific and culturally appropriate strategies that will be successful."

The study will offer a 16-week intervention program that includes personal wellness coaching, free weekly exercise classes, free health screenings, incentives for participating, and a stipend for completing all program study activities.    The first intervention program will begin in February 2014 and the study will be in progress over the next two years. 

Project partners for the study include the Novant Health Maya Angelou Center for Women's Health and Wellness at Forsyth Medical Center, the Mental Health Association in Forsyth County, the YWCA of Winston-Salem, Goler Memorial AME Zion Church and U-Fit2 Health & Wellness Incorporated.

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