Background: Appalachia is a rural, socioeconomically disadvantaged region with high rates of cancer and obesity. Using community-based participatory research principles, the Appalachia Community Cancer Network tested an initiative to reduce weight among overweight and obese participants by partnering with churches, an important community-based institution in Appalachia. Methods: A group randomized trial was conducted with counties or groups of counties in five Appalachian states. These groups were randomly assigned to receive either monthly diet and exercise education sessions ("Walk by Faith"; WbF) or an educational program focused on cancer screening and education ("Ribbons of Faith"; RoF) to examine effects on weight change. Participants completed questionnaires and biometric measurements at baseline and 12 months. The primary outcome of the study was weight change from baseline to 12 months. Results: The relative difference in weight loss from baseline to 12 months for WbF compared with RoF was 1.4% but was not statistically significant (P = 0.13). However, results varied by sex and marital status. WbF men experienced a significant 2.8% decrease in body weight, married WbF women a 1.5% decrease, and unmarried WbF women a 1.5% increase compared with their respective RoF subgroups (interaction P = 0.016). Among WbF participants, greater participation in monthly educational sessions was associated with greater weight loss (P = 0.002). Conclusions: WbF facilitated weight loss mainly in male participants. Level of participation in WbF activities correlated with weight loss. Impact: Findings suggest that additional research is needed to better understand factors associated with participation in health promotion programs for underserved rural communities.
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