Open Access Study protocol

Weight gain prevention among black women in the rural community health center setting: The Shape Program

Perry Foley1*, Erica Levine1, Sandy Askew1, Elaine Puleo2, Jessica Whiteley3, Bryan Batch4, Daniel Heil5, Daniel Dix1, Veronica Lett1, Michele Lanpher1, Jade Miller1, Karen Emmons6 and Gary Bennett1

Author Affiliations

1 Duke Obesity Prevention Program, Duke Global Health Institute, 2812 Erwin Road, Suite 403 Box 90392, Durham, NC, 27705, USA

2 School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 425 Arnold House 715 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA, 01003-9304, USA

3 College of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA, 02125, USA

4 Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition, Duke University Medical Center, 200 Trent Drive, Duke South Orange Zone DUMC, Box 3031, Durham, NC, 27710, USA

5 Department of Health & Human Development, Montana State University, H&PE Complex, Hoseaus Room 121, Bozeman, MT, 59717, USA

6 Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, LW601, Boston, MA, 02215, USA

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:305  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-305

Published: 26 April 2012



Nearly 60% of black women are obese. Despite their increased risk of obesity and associated chronic diseases, black women have been underrepresented in clinical trials of weight loss interventions, particularly those conducted in the primary care setting. Further, existing obesity treatments are less effective for this population. The promotion of weight maintenance can be achieved at lower treatment intensity than can weight loss and holds promise in reducing obesity-associated chronic disease risk. Weight gain prevention may also be more consistent with the obesity-related sociocultural perspectives of black women than are traditional weight loss approaches.


We conducted an 18-month randomized controlled trial (the Shape Program) of a weight gain prevention intervention for overweight black female patients in the primary care setting. Participants include 194 premenopausal black women aged 25 to 44 years with a BMI of 25–34.9 kg/m2. Participants were randomized either to usual care or to a 12-month intervention that consisted of: tailored obesogenic behavior change goals, self-monitoring via interactive voice response phone calls, tailored skills training materials, 12 counseling calls with a registered dietitian and a 12-month YMCA membership.

Participants are followed over 18 months, with study visits at baseline, 6-, 12- and 18-months. Anthropometric data, blood pressure, fasting lipids, fasting glucose, and self-administered surveys are collected at each visit. Accelerometer data is collected at baseline and 12-months.

At baseline, participants were an average of 35.4 years old with a mean body mass index of 30.2 kg/m2. Participants were mostly employed and low-income. Almost half of the sample reported a diagnosis of hypertension or prehypertension and 12% reported a diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes. Almost one-third of participants smoked and over 20% scored above the clinical threshold for depression.


The Shape Program utilizes an innovative intervention approach to lower the risk of obesity and obesity-associated chronic disease among black women in the primary care setting. The intervention was informed by behavior change theory and aims to prevent weight gain using inexpensive mobile technologies and existing health center resources. Baseline characteristics reflect a socioeconomically disadvantaged, high-risk population sample in need of evidence-based treatment strategies.

Trial registration

The trial is registered with NCT00938535.

Obesity; Weight; eHealth; Women’s health; Minority health; Primary care; Prevention