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Wheeling Walks

Program Synopsis

Designed to increase physical activity among sedentary older adults, this media-based community campaign intervention encourages walking through paid newspaper, TV, and radio advertising; weekly press conferences and news coverage; worksite programs; website exposure; and public health education programs implemented by physicians, health professionals, and ministers. The study showed an increase in the proportion of participants classified as active walkers.

Program Highlights

Purpose: Designed to increase physical activity among sedentary individuals (2002).
Age: 40-65 Years (Adults)
Sex: Female, Male
Race/Ethnicity: White (not of Hispanic or Latino Origin)
Program Focus: Behavior Modification
Population Focus: Sedentary People
Program Area: Physical Activity
Delivery Location: Other Settings
Community Type: This information has not been reported.
Program Materials

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Program Scores

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A lack of physical activity contributes significantly to death and disability in the United States.  Current guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five times per week.  However, 75 percent of Americans do not meet that requirement, and 45 percent do not participate in any physical activity.  Determining how to effectively promote and sustain regular physical activity is a major health challenge.  A popular choice for physical activity is walking.  Walking is affordable, convenient in most communities, and easily incorporated into one's daily life.  Because walking confers physiologic and epidemiological benefits, and is a preferred form of physical activity for all age groups and activity levels, a media-based community intervention to increase walking among older adults is one method to increase physical activity.

Wheeling Walks is a theory- and media-based community campaign that uses paid advertising to encourage walking among sedentary older adults.  The program's campaign activities include paid newspaper, TV and radio advertising, weekly press conferences and news coverage, worksite programs, website exposure, and other public health education programs implemented by physicians, health professionals, and ministers.  An initial 12-week component of the program mobilizes community members to assist with subsequent campaign planning and implementation.  Wheeling Walks' intensive 8-week campaign is followed by two booster campaigns.

This program uses intervention approaches recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force: community-wide campaigns (Physical Activity) and creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach programs (Physical Activity). This program also uses the following intervention approach for which the Community Preventive Services Task Force finds insufficient evidence: stand-alone mass media campaigns (Physical Activity). Insufficient evidence means the available studies do not provide sufficient evidence to determine if the intervention is or is not effective. This does not mean that the intervention does not work. It means that additional research is needed to determine whether the intervention is effective.

The program requires a participatory planning process (approximately 12 weeks) and three media campaign waves (8 weeks for Wave 1; 4 weeks each for Waves 2 and 3) during 12 months.

Participants were 50- to 65-year-old adults in West Virginia; 68 percent were women; 43 percent had annual incomes below 30K; 95 percent were White and 5 percent were African American.  Twenty five percent were college graduates.

The intervention is suitable for implementation in the community through mass media communication channels. Worksites, churches and local organizations also should be incorporated into delivery.

The CD-ROM entitled, "Training Manual for a Media-Based Campaign for Walking based on Wheeling Walks."  Costs associated with the study's implementation (not including evaluation) were approximately $150,000 for the 12-month implementation.

The community of Wheeling, WV, was chosen as the intervention group (called Wheeling Walks, or WW), with Parkersburg, WV, chosen as the comparison group.  Both Appalachian cities have similar demographics but no overlapping media.  The intervention targeted sedentary and irregularly active 50- to 65-year-old residents.  Prior to the campaign in Wheeling, 12 weeks were spent mobilizing community members (e.g., elected officials, community agencies, health professionals) to assist with subsequent planning and implementation.  Once the 8-week Wheeling Walks campaign was initiated, activities included:

  • two newspaper ads, two 30-second TV commercials, and two 60-second radio ads;      
  • special public relations events such as weekly press conferences and news coverage;
  • worksite programs for participants to submit weekly logs of minutes walking;
  • exposure to a website designed to keep community members informed of upcoming events;
  • physicians prescribing 30-minutes of walking 5 days per week to their patients; and
  • other public health education programs.

A booster campaign was planned for September 2001, but was cancelled due to terrorist attacks that month.  A second booster was implemented roughly 6 months later.  The 4-week booster consisted of additional TV commercials, news print advertising, radio spots, and 4 public relations events.  In addition, a 16-week free walking clinic was established, but evaluation data was not collected for this component.

Measures included behavioral observations and self-reported observations via telephone.  Telephone surveys were conducted at baseline, 3-, 6-, and 12-months post-intervention using a panel design; respondents were initially identified through random digit dialing.

Results indicated:

  • Based on self-report data, relative to comparison participants, more of those individuals who walked less than 10 minutes a day at baseline reported being active walkers at 3-month follow-up.  Increases in self-reported active walking were maintained at 12-month follow-up for participants who were sedentary at baseline.

Graph of Study Results

  • However, the behavioral observation data demonstrated no pre to post differences between the intervention or comparison community.

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Updated: 09/30/2020