Engaging Rural Youth in Physical Activity Promotion Research in an After-School Setting
Published Date:Nov 01 2005
Source:Prev Chronic Dis. 2005; 2(Spec No).
Funding:2R25 RR12329-04/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
H75/CCH322130/CC/ODCDC CDC HHS/United States
West Virginia, the second most rural state in the nation, has a higher than average prevalence of chronic diseases, especially those related to physical inactivity and obesity. Innovative educational approaches are needed to increase physical activity among adults and youth in rural areas and reduce rural health disparities. This paper describes West Virginia's Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) Education and Outreach on Healthy Weight and Physical Activity. The project involved teachers and underserved high school students in social science research aimed at increasing physical activity among student and community participants.
The HSTA is an ongoing initiative of university–school–community partnerships in West Virginia that offers academic enrichment to high-school students in after-school clubs. For this project, six HSTA clubs were awarded grants to conduct research on physical activity promotion during the 2003–2004 school year. The project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Focus groups, workshops, and targeted technical assistance were used to assist teachers and students with developing, implementing, and evaluating their research projects. Each club completed one project, and students reported on their research at the annual HSTA symposium held in the spring. Teachers documented their experience with the projects in process journals before and during implementation.
Data from the teachers' process journals revealed that they believed this research experience increased their students' interest in health and health science careers and increased their students' understanding of social science research methods. Challenges included lack of time after school to complete all activities, competing student activities, limited social science research experience of both teachers and students, and delays that resulted from a lengthy human subjects approval process.
The entire process was too ambitious to be achieved in one school year. Recommendations for future implementation include offering training modules on social science research methods for both teachers and students. These modules could be offered as a graduate course for teachers and as an in-school elective within the curriculum or as a summer institute for students. This preparatory training might alleviate some of the time management issues experienced by all the projects and could result in more skilled teacher and student researchers.
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