Rural, faith-based organizations, physical activity, nutrition, health promotion, cardiovascular disease


Introduction: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in the US. Further, rural US adults experience disproportionately high CVD prevalence and mortality compared to non-rural. Cardiovascular risk-reduction interventions for rural adults have shown short-term effectiveness, but long-term maintenance of outcomes remains a challenge. Faith organizations offer promise as collaborative partners for translating evidence-based interventions to reduce CVD.

Methods: We adapted and implemented a collaborative, faith-placed, CVD risk-reduction intervention in rural Illinois. We used a quasi-experimental, pre-post design to compare changes in dietary and physical activity among participants. Intervention components included Heart Smart for Women (HSFW), an evidence-based program implemented weekly for 12 weeks followed by Heart Smart Maintenance (HSM), implemented monthly for two years. Participants engaged in HSFW only, HSM only, or both. We used regression and generalized estimating equations models to examine changes in outcomes after one year.

Results: Among participants who completed both baseline and one-year surveys (n = 131), HSFW+HSM participants had significantly higher vegetable consumption (p = .007) and combined fruit/vegetable consumption (p = .01) compared to the HSM-only group at one year. We found no differences in physical activity.

Conclusion: Improving and maintaining CVD-risk behaviors is a persistent challenge in rural populations. Advancing research to improve our understanding of effective translation of CVD risk-reduction interventions in rural populations is critical.