A community-academic partnership
committed to fostering health 
equity in Detroit since 2000

Promoting Physical Activity

Detroit Heart Walk RenCenBackgroundHEP's primary physical activity intervention is related to promoting healthy activity in Detroit through walking. 

A milestone project related to promoting healthy activity in Detroit was the multi-year Community Approaches to Cardiovascular Health (CATCH) initiative. With support from the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (1 R24 MD001619) over an 11-year period, HEP worked with community groups and organizations to develop and pilot a multilevel intervention to promote physical activity and activity-friendly environments, conduct a rigorous randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a walking group intervention in reducing cardiovascular risk, and disseminate "Walk Your Heart to Health" walking groups throughout the city, with a focus on neighborhoods with high cardiovascular risk, once we had demonstrated the effectiveness. 

The CATCH project was completed in three phases: 1) Planning, 2) Intervention, and 3) Dissemination. The timeframe for each phase was as follows:

  1. Community Approaches to Cardiovascular Health (CATCH) in Detroit, 2005-2008
  2. CATCH: Pathways to Heart Health, 2008-2013
  3. CATCH: Dissemination Phase, 2013-2016

The planning process actively engaged youth, adults and Detroit-based organizations in analyzing neighborhood and individual factors associated with physical activity. Focus groups, town hall meetings, and a Youth Photovoice project were conducted to understand more clearly the factors that influence physical activity and heart health in Detroit neighborhoods.

The research conducted through the CATCH program demonstrated the effectiveness of walking groups in supporting Detroit residents in becoming more physically active. Participants walked more, and realized reductions in multiple indicators of cardiovascular risk, including blood pressure, fasting blood glucose levels, and reduced low-density lipoproteins (cholesterol).

Another key related initiative was the Youth Photovoice Project. Led by the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (a HEP partner organization), this project provided training and additional resources for 24 Detroit youth who were involved. The team documented, through photographs, conditions in their neighborhoods that affect heart health and used these photographs to engage in structured dialogue about the underlying causes of those conditions and potential strategies for change. The program culminated in a presentation of the photovoice results to local policy makers to discuss strategies that could be undertaken to improve health in Detroit neighborhoods.

The information gathered through the planning process was used to develop specific objectives and an implementation plan for a multilevel intervention to promote physical activity, including a walking group program that would enhance skills and experience among community members, develop a network of community and faith-based organizations, and support changes in built, social and policy environments to promote physical activity and cardiovascular health. 

Please visit the Publications page to learn more about the results from this study. Relevant publications include: Schulz et. al. 2016; Kwarteng et. al. 2016; Schulz et. al. 2015; Izumi et. al. 2015; Schulz et. al. 2011; Strong et. al. 2009.

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