The “Heart Healthy and Ethnically Relevant” (HHER) trial, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, aims to evaluate the efficacy of combining a theory-based, community health care center-based behavioral counseling intervention (the HHER Lifestyle Program) with telephone counseling and tailored print materials to promote a low-fat diet and physical activity among financially disadvantaged African American women. The culturally appropriate intervention was designed to circumvent many of the common obstacles to providing counseling and sustaining behavior change. The primary aim was to test the effectiveness of a theory-based comprehensive intervention (a one-time physician counseling session along with nurse-assisted goal-setting and educational handouts, plus 12 months of telephone counseling and monthly tailored print materials) versus a standard care intervention (a one-time physician counseling session along with nurse-assisted goal-setting and educational handouts) on increasing moderate-intensity physical activity and reducing dietary fat and cholesterol.
The project conducted a randomized trial in two community health centers and nine clinics in South Carolina involving 266 African American women older than age 35 (participants’ mean age was 51). About 33 percent of the women were married or living with a partner, 20 percent had less than a high-school education, 56 percent were currently employed, and 46 percent had annual household incomes below $20,000. With regard to their health status, 39 percent rated their health as fair/poor, 18 percent were current smokers, 61 percent had physician-diagnosed hypertension and 18 percent had type 2 diabetes. The majority of participants were overweight or obese (19 and 64 percent, respectively). According to preliminary data, both moderate intensity physical activity and dietary intake substantially increased in the HHER comprehensive intervention group, while the standard care intervention group had a decrease in physical activity and had lower levels of dietary intake increases.