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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Emory: Clinical and Community-based Linkages Provide Potential for Increased Physical Activity in Mexico

Integrating physical activity (PA) counseling in Mexico’s primary care setting and providing referrals to community-based programming appears to be an effective strategy to help patients increase their physical activity levels, according to a recently published study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by researchers at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Mexico Social Security Institute.

Led by Dr. Felipe Lobelo, associate professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health, the team evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of standardizing clinical-community linkages for the promoting of physical activity in Mexico’s largest health care system. The team measured the impact of a 16-week intervention for over 200 patients with hypertension seen at four primary care centers in Cuernavaca. Half of the patients received a brief counseling (BC) intervention that consisted of written and verbal information regarding PA benefits and advice on how to increase PA levels effectively. The other half was offered an exercise referral (ER) group-based intervention led by certified PA professionals and monitored for session attendance.

Findings suggest that after 24 weeks, both interventions led to modest increases of about 50 minutes/week for moderate-to-vigorous PA measured objectively with accelerometers. Additionally, patients that attended 50 percent or more of the group exercise classes significantly increased by 25 percent compliance with the World Health Organization aerobic PA recommendation (150 minutes/week) compared to the BC group.

The complete study is at:

“We know that physical activity can be highly effective in  the prevention and management of non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs),” explains Lobelo.  “Integrating PA promotion in health care settings has proven to be cost-effective in high-income countries and is recommended by the US Prevention Services Taskforce. However, 80 percent of the global NCD-related mortality occurs in low-to-middle income countries and there is little local evidence supporting prevention-oriented strategies. This is the first study to show that promotion of PA in primary care and standardizing clinical-community linkages can be feasible and effective in the context of an LMIC’s health care system. We feel that this study supports scaling-up implementation of physical activity promotion strategies through clinical-community linkages to help control the growing global burden of NCDs.”