Web visitors rate Wilcox article in top 10

January 13, 2009

Sara Wilcox

Sara Wilcox

A report by Arnold School researcher Dr. Sara Wilcox is one of the top ten most influential articles about a research effort supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2008.

The article in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine is based on studies showing that physical activity programs first developed in research settings can be duplicated successfully in community programs for middle-age and senior adults.

Wilcox, a faculty member in the Department of Exercise Science, reported that two programs -- Active Living Every Day and Active Choices -- are effective when offered through community organizations that reach adults from a variety of racial, economic and geographic backgrounds. The programs are part of Active for Life®, a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The article was among a list of 25 nominated by Dr. D.C. Colby, RWJF's vice president for research and evaluation. The nominations were posted on the foundation's website with an invitation for visitors to rate the list.

Colby said he nominated  Wilcox’s report because it "provides evidence for community-based organizations and policy-makers on how they can implement AFL programs in a range of real-world settings among diverse older adults. "These researchers also present a model for how to translate and evaluate evidence-based programs in the community."

Colby said that more than 1,400 persons cast votes in the selection of the most influential articles. Voters came from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The largest percentage of voters was from California (14%); followed by Massachusetts (6.4%); and New York (6.3%). Thirty-eight percent of voters were academics. 

The Wilcox article also was among Colby’s personal top ten list.

Active for Life®, a joint campaign of the RJWF and AARP, was launched in 2002 to increase physical activity among Americans age 50 and over. The program is based on substantial evidence that regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying prematurely, as well as the risk of high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.

"Our findings are important because, increasingly, researchers are being asked to document the public health reach of effective programs and to put our research into practice," said Wilcox.

"These programs show that middle-age and older adults can increase their physical activity, which is critical to health and independence in later life," she said. "Community-based programs are especially important because they reach diverse populations and provide physical activity in an environment that they know and trust. As a result, we are seeing impressive increases in physical activity among program participants."

The researchers found that moderate- to-vigorous physical activity among participants increased by about two hours per week and total physical activity increased by more than three and a half hours per week.

Program participants also reported a greater satisfaction with body function, which is vital to older adults because of their increased risk of losing independence.

Active for Life® will be a useful model on how to implement research-based programs at the community level, Wilcox commented. "We also will gain insights into effective adaptation and the sustainability of such programs."

Active for Life® is headquartered at the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health. The project is being evaluated and analyzed by researchers from the Arnold School.


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