Disconnections of African American Public Housing Residents: Connections to Physical Activity, Dietary Habits and Obesity

  • Michelle L. Eugeni
  • Meggin Baxter
  • Scherezade K. Mama
  • Rebecca E. Lee
Original Paper


African American (AA) and low SES populations report poor health behaviors and outcomes. This study aimed to increase understanding of barriers to participating in healthful behaviors and programs in AA residents of public housing. Twenty two apparently healthy, AA residents (50% female, M = 43.9 years) completed in depth interviews, which were taped, transcribed and analyzed using a constant comparison approach. Residents demonstrated some awareness of health recommendations, but described limited adherence. Physical activity for recreation was reported as primarily for youth, with adults engaging in limited physical activity (primarily incidental to other activities). Barriers reported by residents were both personal and environmental. Few residents were aware of local neighborhood opportunities for physical activity or healthful eating. Future efforts should focus on increasing understanding of health promoting behaviors and awareness and efficacy of residents to connect with the resources of their surrounding communities.


African Americans Public housing Diet Exercise Qualitative research 


  1. Adams-Campbell, L. L., Rosenberg, L., Washburn, R. A., Rao, R. S., Kim, K. S., & Palmer, J. (2000). Descriptive epidemiology of physical activity in African-American women. Preventive Medicine, 30(1), 43–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ainsworth, B. E., Irwin, M. L., Addy, C. L., Whitt, M. C., & Stolarczyk, L. M. (1999). Moderate physical activity patterns of minority women: The cross-cultural activity participation study. Journal of Womens Health and Gender Based Medicine, 8(6), 805–813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ainsworth, B. E., Wilcox, S., Thompson, W. W., Richter, D. L., & Henderson, K. A. (2003). Personal, social, and physical environmental correlates of physical activity in African-American women in South Carolina. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 25(3 Suppl 1), 23–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Airhihenbuwa, C. O., Kumanyika, S., Agurs, T. D., Lowe, A., Saunders, D., & Morssink, C. B. (1996). Cultural aspects of African American eating patterns. Ethnicity and Health, 1(3), 245–260.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bennett, G. G., McNeill, L. H., Wolin, K. Y., Duncan, D. T., Puleo, E., & Emmons, K. M. (2007). Safe to walk? Neighborhood safety and physical activity among public housing residents. PLoS Medicine, 4(10), 1599–1606.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bennett, G. G., Wolin, K. Y., Puleo, E., & Emmons, K. M. (2006). Pedometer-determined physical activity among multiethnic low-income housing residents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(4), 768–773.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bock, B. C., Marcus, B. H., Pinto, B. M., & Forsyth, L. H. (2001). Maintenance of physical activity following an individualized motivationally tailored intervention. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 23(2), 79–87.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Breitkopf, C. R., & Berenson, A. B. (2004). Correlates of weight loss behaviors among low-income African-American, Caucasian, and Latina women. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 103(2), 231–239.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brownson, R. C., Eyler, A. A., King, A. C., Brown, D. R., Shyu, Y. L., & Sallis, J. F. (2000). Patterns and correlates of physical activity among US women 40 years and older. American Journal of Public Health, 90(2), 264–270.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carpenter, W. H., Fonong, T., Toth, M. J., Ades, P. A., Calles-Escandon, J., Walston, J. D., et al. (1998). Total daily energy expenditure in free-living older African-Americans and Caucasians. American Journal of Physiology, 274(1 Pt 1), E96–101.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Centers for Disease Control, Prevention (CDC). (2000). Prevalence of leisure-time and occupational physical activity among employed adults-United States, 1990. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, 49, 420–424.Google Scholar
  12. Chang, M. W., Nitzke, S., Guilford, E., Adair, C. H., & Hazard, D. L. (2008). Motivators and barriers to healthful eating and physical activity among low-income overweight and obese mothers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(6), 1023–1028.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chen, A. H., Sallis, J. F., Castro, C. M., Lee, R. E., Hickmann, S. A., William, C., et al. (1998). A home-based behavioral intervention to promote walking in sedentary ethnic minority women: Project WALK. Womens Health, 4(1), 19–39.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Collins, R., Lee, R. E., Albright, C. L., & King, A. C. (2004). Ready to be physically active? The effects of a course preparing low-income multiethnic women to be more physically active. Health Education and Behavior, 31(1), 47–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craig, C. L., Brownson, R. C., Cragg, S. E., & Dunn, A. L. (2002). Exploring the effect of the environment on physical activity: A study examining walking to work. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23(2 Suppl), 36–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Crespo, C. J., Keteyian, S. J., Heath, G. W., & Sempos, C. T. (1996). Leisure-time physical activity among US adults. Results from the third national health and nutrition examination survey. Archives of Internal Medicine, 156(1), 93–98.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crespo, C. J., Smit, E., Andersen, R. E., Carter-Pokras, O., & Ainsworth, B. E. (2000). Race ethnicity social class and their relation to physical inactivity during leisure time: Results from the third national health and nutrition examination survey 1988–1994. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 18(1), 46–53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Denzin, K. (1978). The research act. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  19. Dey, I. (1993). Qualitative Data Analysis: A user friendly guide for social scientists. New York, NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dubbert, P. M., Carithers, T., Sumner, A. E., Barbour, K. A., Clark, B. L., Hall, J. E., et al. (2002). Obesity, physical inactivity, and risk for cardiovascular disease. American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 324(3), 116–126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Estabrooks, P. A., Lee, R. E., & Gyurcsik, N. C. (2003). Resources for physical activity participation: Does availability and accessibility differ by neighborhood socioeconomic status? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 25(2), 100–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Eyler, A. A., Brownson, R. C., Donatelle, R. J., King, A. C., Brown, D., & Sallis, J. F. (1999). Physical activity social support and middle- and older-aged minority women: Results from a US survey. Social Science and Medicine, 49(6), 781–789.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Felton, G. M., Boyd, M. D., Bartoces, M. G., & Tavakoli, A. S. (2002). Physical activity in young African American women. Health Care for Women International, 23(8), 905–918.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gates, G., & McDonald, M. (1997). Comparison of dietary risk factors for cardiovascular disease in African-American and white women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 97(12), 1394–1400.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Giles-Corti, B., & Donovan, R. J. (2002). The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity. Social Science and Medicine, 54(12), 1793–1812.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Giles-Corti, B., & Donovan, R. J. (2003). Relative influences of individual, social environmental, and physical environmental correlates of walking. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1583–1589.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Handy, S. L., Boarnet, M. G., Ewing, R., & Killingsworth, R. E. (2002). How the built environment affects physical activity: Views from urban planning. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23(2 Suppl), 64–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heinrich, K. M., Lee, R. E., Suminski, R. R., Regan, G. R., Reese-Smith, J. Y., Howard, H. H., et al. (2007). Associations between the built environment and physical activity in public housing residents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 4, 56.Google Scholar
  30. Henderson, K. A., & Ainsworth, B. E. (2000). Enablers and constraints to walking for older African American and American Indian women: The cultural activity participation study. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 71(4), 313–321.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Henderson, K. A., & Ainsworth, B. E. (2003). A synthesis of perceptions about physical activity among older African American and American Indian women. American Journal of Public Health, 93(2), 313–317.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Izquierdo-Porrera, A. M., Powell, C. C., Reiner, J., & Fontaine, K. R. (2002). Correlates of exercise adherence in an African American church community. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8(4), 389–394.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. James, D. C. (2004). Factors influencing food choices, dietary intake, and nutrition-related attitudes among African Americans: Application of a culturally sensitive model. Ethnicity and Health, 9(4), 349–367.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. James, A. S., Hudson, M. A., & Campbell, M. K. (2003). Demographic and psychosocial correlates of physical activity among African Americans. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27(4), 421–431.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. James, S. A., Jamjoum, L., Raghunathan, T. E., Strogatz, D. S., Furth, E. D., & Khazanie, P. G. (1998). Physical activity and NIDDM in African-Americans. The pitt county study. Diabetes Care, 21(4), 555–562.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lee, R. E., Castro, C. M., Albright, C., Pruitt, L., & King, A. C. (2002). Neighborhood perceptions among low-income, ethnic minority women: Are active women more accurate? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24S.Google Scholar
  37. Lee, R. E., & Cubbin, C. (2002). Neighborhood context and youth cardiovascular health behaviors. American Journal of Public Health, 92(3), 428–436.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lee, R. E., & Cubbin, C. (2009). Striding toward social justice: The ecologic milieu of physical activity. Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews, 37(1), 10–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lee, R. E., Cubbin, C., & Winkleby, M. (2007). Contribution of neighbourhood socioeconomic status and physical activity resources to physical activity among women. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 61(10), 882–890.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lee, R. E., & Nigg, C. (2001). Examining the environmental and social infrastructure for physical activity opportunities: An application of geographic information systems technology. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 23, S85.Google Scholar
  41. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  42. Lovejoy, J. C., Champagne, C. M., Smith, S. R., de Jonge, L., & Xie, H. (2001). Ethnic differnces in dietary intakes physical activity and energy expenditure in middle aged premenopausal women: The healthy transitions study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 74, 90–95.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Moudon, A. V., Lee, C., Cheadle, A. D., Garvin, C., Rd, D. B., Schmid, T. L., et al. (2007). Attributes of environments supporting walking. American Journal of Health Promotion, 21(5), 448–459.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Nies, M. A., Vollman, M., & Cook, T. (1999). African American women’s experiences with physical activity in their daily lives. Public Health Nursing, 16(1), 23–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Curtin, L. R., McDowell, M. A., Tabak, C. J., & Flegal, K. M. (2006). Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999–2004. Journal of the American Medical Association, 295(13), 1549–1555.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  47. Plescia, M., & Groblewski, M. (2004). A community-oriented primary care demonstration project: Refining interventions for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Annals of Family Medicine, 2(2), 103–109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ransdell, L. B., & Wells, C. L. (1998). Physical activity in urban white, African-American, and Mexican-American women. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30(11), 1608–1615.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Regan, G. (2006). Obesogenic influences in public housing: A mixed-method analysis. American Journal of Health Promotion, 20(4), 282–290.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Reis, J. P., Macera, C. A., Ainsworth, B. E., & Hipp, D. A. (2008). Prevalence of total daily walking among US adults, 2002–2003. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 5(3), 337–346.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Resnicow, K., Jackson, A., Braithwaite, R., DiIorio, C., Blisset, D., Rahotep, S., et al. (2002). Healthy body/healthy spirit: A church-based nutrition and physical activity intervention. Health Education Research, 17(5), 562–573.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Richter, D. L., & Wilcox, S. (2002). Environmental and policy factors related to physical activity in African American women. Women and Health, 36(2), 91–109.Google Scholar
  53. Rohm Young, D., & Voorhees, C. C. (2003). Personal, social, and environmental correlates of physical activity in urban African-American women. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 25(3 Suppl 1), 38–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Saelens, B. E., Sallis, J., & Frank, L. (2003). Environmental correlates of walking and cycling: Findings from the transportation, urban design, and planning literatures. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 25(2), 80–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sallis, J. F., Bauman, A., & Pratt, M. (1998). Environmental and policy interventions to promote physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 15(4), 379–397.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sallis, J., Kraft, K., & Linton, L. S. (2002). How the environment shapes physical activity: A transdisciplinary research agenda. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22(3), 208.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sanderson, B. K., Foushee, H. R., Bittner, V., Cornell, C. E., Stalker, V., Shelton, S., et al. (2003). Personal, social, and physical environmental correlates of physical activity in rural African-American women in Alabama. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 25(3 Suppl 1), 30–37.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanderson, B., Littleton, M. A., & Pulley, L. V. (2002). Environmental policy and cultural factors related to physical activity among rural African American women. Women and Health, 36(2), 75–90.Google Scholar
  59. Sharpe, P. A., Granner, M. L., Hutto, B., & Ainsworth, B. E. (2004). Association of environmental factors to meeting physical activity recommendations in two South Carolina counties. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(3), 251–257.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Spence, J. C., & Lee, R. E. (2003). Toward a comprehensive model of physical activity. Psychology of Sports and Exercise, 4(1), 7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stoddard, A. M., Krieger, N., Barbeau, E. M., Bennett, G. G., Fay, M. E., Sorensen, G., et al. (2005). Methods and baseline characteristics of two group-randomized trials with multiracial and multiethnic working-class samples. Preventing Chronic Disease, 2(4), A10.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. United States Census Bureau. (2008). State & county quickfacts: Harris County, Texas.Google Scholar
  63. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). (1996). Physical activity and health: A report of the surgeon general. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
  64. Walcott-McQuigg, J. A. (2000). Psychological factors influencing cardiovascular risk reduction behavior in low and middle income African-American women. Journal of National Black Nurses Association, 11(1), 27–35.Google Scholar
  65. Washburn, R. A., Kline, G., Lackland, D. T., & Wheeler, F. C. (1992). Leisure time physical activity: Are there black/white differences? Preventive Medicine, 21(1), 127–135.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wilbur, J., Chandler, P., Dancy, B., Choi, J., & Plonczynski, D. (2002). Environmental policy and cultural factors related to physical activity in urban African American women. Women and Health, 36(2), 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wilbur, J., Chandler, P. J., Dancy, B., & Lee, H. (2003). Correlates of physical activity in urban Midwestern African-American women. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 25(3 Suppl 1), 45–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wilcox, S., Richter, D. L., Henderson, K. A., Greaney, M. L., & Ainsworth, B. E. (2002). Perceptions of physical activity and personal barriers and enablers in African-American women. Ethnicity and Disease, 12(3), 353–362.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle L. Eugeni
    • 1
  • Meggin Baxter
    • 2
  • Scherezade K. Mama
    • 2
  • Rebecca E. Lee
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Curriculum and InstructionUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Texas Obesity Research Center, Department of Health and Human PerformanceUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations