Development of a theory-based, peer support intervention to promote weight loss among Latina immigrants

BMC Obes. 2015 Mar 19;2:17. doi: 10.1186/s40608-015-0047-3. eCollection 2015.


Background: Obesity rates are disproportionately high among Latinas living in the United States. Few community-based weight management studies have focused on Latina immigrants living in emerging Latino communities. The purpose of this study was to develop and pilot test a theory-based, promotora-delivered, peer support weight loss intervention for Latina immigrants to be administered in a community setting. We employed participatory methods to develop an 8-week program grounded in self-determination theory. Overweight Latina immigrants were recruited to participate in a quasi-experimental pilot study. Data collected pre and post-intervention included height, weight, fasting lipids, glucose, dietary practices, physical activity and depressive symptoms.

Results: Twenty-two women completed the intervention. Mean age was 36, mean time in the U.S. was 12 years; the majority was from Mexico. Mean BMI was 33; 68% had a family history of diabetes. The intervention resulted in statistically significant weight loss (mean 2.1 kg, SD 2.6, p < 0.001); mean change in weight remained significant when compared with that of a historical control group (-2.1 kg vs 1.10 kg, p < 0.01) but was attenuated at 6 months. Levels of moderate physical activity increased significantly (p < 0.05) and dietary practices improved (p < 0.01) and remained significant at 6 months. Notably, depressive symptoms also improved (p = <0.001).

Conclusions: This theory-based, promotora-delivered intervention resulted in significant weight loss among a sample of Latina immigrants at 8 weeks. Future studies are needed to test the impact of an extended peer support intervention on long-term weight management.

Trial registration: National Clinical Trials: NCT02344212. Registered 21 January 2015.

Keywords: Community Health Workers; Community-based participatory research; Diabetes prevention; Latino; Obesity; Peer support.

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