Assessing Health Promotion Interventions: Limitations of Traditional Research Methods in Community-Based Studies

Health Promot Pract. 2018 Jul;19(4):573-580. doi: 10.1177/1524839917725489. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


Most low-income Americans fail to meet physical activity recommendations. Inactivity and poor diet contribute to obesity, a risk factor for multiple chronic diseases. Health promotion activities have the potential to improve health outcomes for low-income populations. Measuring the effectiveness of these activities, however, can be challenging in community settings. A "Biking for Health" study tested the impact of a bicycling intervention on overweight or obese low-income Latino and African American adults to reduce barriers to cycling and increase physical activity and fitness. A randomized controlled trial was conducted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in summer 2015. A 12-week bicycling intervention was implemented at two sites with low-income, overweight, or obese Latino and African American adults. We found that randomized controlled trial methodology was suboptimal for use in this small pilot study and that it negatively affected participation. More discussion is needed about the effectiveness of using traditional research methods in community settings to assess the effectiveness of health promotion interventions. Modifications or alternative methods may yield better results. The aim of this article is to discuss the effectiveness and feasibility of using traditional research methods to assess health promotion interventions in community-based settings.

Keywords: Black/African American; Latino; obesity; physical activity/exercise; program planning and evaluation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling / psychology
  • Bicycling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Poverty / psychology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design
  • Wisconsin