A community-based intervention increases physical activity and reduces obesity in school-age children in North Carolina.


BACKGROUND: Community-based interventions are promising approaches to obesity prevention, but few studies have prospectively evaluated them. The aim of this study was to evaluate a natural experiment—a community intervention designed to promote active living and decrease obesity within a small southern town. METHODS: In 2011, community leaders implemented the Mebane on the Move intervention—a community-wide effort to promote physical activity (PA) and decrease obesity among residents of Mebane, North Carolina. We measured child PA and BMI before and after the intervention, using a nearby town not implementing an intervention as the comparison. In total, we assessed 64 children from Mebane and 40 from the comparison community 6 months before, as well as 34 and 18 children 6 months after the intervention. We assessed PA with accelerometers worn for 7 days and calculated BMI z-scores using children's height and weight. We conducted multivariable linear regressions examining pre- to postintervention change in minutes of PA and BMI z-score, adjusting for confounders. RESULTS: At follow-up, children in Mebane modestly increased their moderate-to-vigorous PA (1.3 minutes per hour; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.2, 2.3; p=0.03) and vigorous activity (0.8 minutes per hour; 95% CI: 0.1, 1.5; p=0.04) more than comparison children. In intervention children, BMI z-scores decreased 0.5 units (kg/m(2); 95% CI: -0.9, -0.02; p=0.045), compared to children in the comparison community. CONCLUSIONS: We observed positive effects on PA level and weight status of children in Mebane, despite high rates of attrition, suggesting that the community-based intervention may have been successful.





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Publication Info

Benjamin Neelon, Sara E, Rebecca J Namenek Brouwer, Truls Østbye, Kelly R Evenson, Brian Neelon, Annie Martinie and Gary Bennett (2015). A community-based intervention increases physical activity and reduces obesity in school-age children in North Carolina. Child Obes, 11(3). pp. 297–303. 10.1089/chi.2014.0130 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11436.

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Rebecca Brouwer

Dir, Research Initiatives

My overarching goal is to facilitate effective research and collaborations for the Duke research community, through the delivery of targeted programs, tools, and individual consultations.


Gary G. Bennett

Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Gary G. Bennett, Ph.D., is dean of the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences at Duke University.  

As dean, Dr. Bennett is responsible for defining and articulating the strategic mission of Trinity College, ensuring a world-class liberal arts education in a research environment for all students, and attracting, retaining, and nurturing a diverse community of distinguished faculty.

Dr. Bennett is a professor of psychology & neuroscience, global health, medicine, and nursing, and is the founding director of the Duke Digital Health Science Center.  He is a global leader in designing, testing, and disseminating digital behavior change interventions. Dr. Bennett developed the interactive obesity treatment approach (iOTA); his recent work demonstrates the effectiveness of digital strategies in treating obesity in the primary care setting.

Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Bennett created one of the first digital health research programs. His laboratory has since become a global leader in designing, testing, and disseminating digital behavior change interventions, especially for medically vulnerable populations. Dr. Bennett has authored nearly 200 scientific papers, and the National Institutes of Health have continuously funded his research program with more than $20m in grant support.  From 2018-2019, Dr. Bennett served as president of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the nation's largest organization of behavioral change scientists. Dr. Bennett is an elected Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and Behavioral Medicine Research Council member. 

Before assuming his role as dean of Trinity College in February 2023, Dr. Bennett served as vice provost for undergraduate education. He provided strategic vision and leadership for Duke’s undergraduate experience.  As vice provost, he oversaw the Office of Undergraduate Education, comprising 15 units that enrich Duke's undergraduate academic experience through academic advising, academic support, nationally competitive scholarships, merit scholar programs, financial aid, study abroad, and several co-curricular programs.  Under Bennett’s leadership, Duke introduced several advancements to make the undergraduate experience more enriching and equitable for all students, including the DukeLIFE program to support first-generation and low-income students, and QuadEx, Duke’s inclusive living and learning model that integrates undergraduates’ social, residential and intellectual experiences.

Dr. Bennett is a member of Duke's Bass Society of Fellows and is the founding director of Duke's undergraduate major in global health. He has served on committees to examine Duke's undergraduate curriculum and develop the university's strategic plan and has co-led the Board of Trustees Undergraduate Education Committee since 2018. His students' course ratings have repeatedly placed Dr. Bennett in the top 5% of Duke's undergraduate instructors.

Dr. Bennett has also co-founded three digital health ventures. Crimson Health Solutions developed digital disease management interventions and was acquired by Health Dialog in 2007. In 2014, he co­ founded Scale Down, a digital obesity treatment startup based on the science of daily self-weighing. Scale Down was acquired by Anthem in 2017. He is a co-founder of Coeus Health, a leading provider of health APIs. Dr. Bennett advises leading digital health and consumer electronic organizations on the science of health behavior change.

Before joining Duke in 2009, Dr. Bennett served on the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute faculties. Dr. Bennett earned a bachelor's degree at Morehouse College, an AM and PhD in clinical health psychology at Duke University, completed a clinical internship in medical psychology at the Duke University Medical Center, and was the Alonzo Yerby postdoctoral fellow in social epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Bennett lives in Raleigh with his wife (also a Duke alum) and his two daughters.

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