Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 67–75 | Cite as

Promoting Sustainable Community Change in Support of Older Adult Physical Activity: Evaluation Findings from the Southeast Seattle Senior Physical Activity Network (SESPAN)

  • Allen CheadleEmail author
  • Ruth Egger
  • James P. LoGerfo
  • Sheryl Schwartz
  • Jeffrey R. Harris


Researchers have identified as effective and worthy of broader dissemination a variety of intervention strategies to promote physical activity among older adults. This paper reports results of a community-organizing approach to disseminating evidence-based interventions in a sustainable way: The Southeast Seattle Senior Physical Activity Network (SESPAN). SESPAN was implemented in Southeast Seattle, a group of multicultural neighborhoods extending 8 miles southeast of downtown Seattle, with a population of 56,469 in 2000, with 12% (7,041) aged 65 and older. The SESPAN organizing strategy involved networking to: (1) make connections between two or more community organizations to create new senior physical activity programs; and (2) build coalitions of community groups and organizations to assist in making larger scale environmental and policy changes to increase senior physical activity. The SESPAN evaluation used an uncontrolled prospective design focusing on sustainable community changes, including new or modified programs, policies, and practices. Networking among organizations led to the creation of 16 ongoing exercise classes and walking groups, serving approximately 200 older adults in previously underserved Southeast Seattle communities. In addition, the project's health coalition is sustaining current activities and generating new programs and environmental changes. The success of the SESPAN organizing model depended on identifying and involving champions in partner organizations who provided support and resources for implementing programs.


Physical activity Older adults Community organizing Community coalitions Community-based health programs 



This work was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevention Research Centers Program, through a cooperative agreement (U48/DP000050) with the University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center.


  1. 1.
    van der Bij AK, Laurant MG, Wensing M. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for older adults: a review. Am J Prev Med. 2002; 22(2): 120-133.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    King AC. Interventions to promote physical activity by older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001; 56(Spec No 2): 36-46.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    King AC, Rejeski WJ, Buchner DM. Physical activity interventions targeting older adults. A critical review and recommendations. Am J Prev Med. 1998; 15(4): 316-333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dunn AL, Andersen RE, Jakicic JM. Lifestyle physical activity interventions. History, short- and long-term effects, and recommendations. Am J Prev Med. 1998; 15(4): 398-412.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sallis JF, Bauman A, Pratt M. Environmental and policy interventions to promote physical activity. Am J Prev Med. 1998; 15(4): 379-397.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kerner J, Rimer B, Emmons K. Introduction to the special section on dissemination: dissemination research and research dissemination: how can we close the gap? Health Psychol. 2005; 24(5): 443-446.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Taylor WC, Baranowski T, Young DR. Physical activity interventions in low-income, ethnic minority, and populations with disability. Am J Prev Med. 1998; 15(4): 334-343.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Banks-Wallace J, Conn V. Interventions to promote physical activity among African-American women. Public Health Nurs. 2002; 19(5): 321-335.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jackson RS, Reddick B. The African-American church and university partnerships: establishing lasting collaborations. Health Educ Behav. 1999; 26(5): 663-674.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Nguyen MN, Gauvin L, Martineau I, Grignon R. Promoting physical activity at the community level: insights into health promotion practice from the Laval Walking Clubs experience. Health Promot Pract. 2002; 3(4): 485-496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Yancey AK, Jordan A, Bradford J, et al. Engaging high-risk populations in community-level fitness promotion: ROCK! Richmond. Health Promot Pract. 2003; 4(2): 180-188.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Accessed March 19, 2009.
  13. 13.
    Cheadle A, Egger R, LoGerfo JP, Walwick J, Schwartz S. A Community-organizing approach to promoting physical activity in older adults: The Southeast Senior Physical Activity Network. Health Promot Pract OnlineFirst, published on May 19, 2008 as doi: 10.1177/1524839908318167
  14. 14.
    Fawcett SB, Schultz JA, Carson VL, Renault VA, Francisco VT. Using Internet-based tools to build capacity for community-based participatory research and other efforts to promote community health and development. In: Minkler M, Wallerstein N, eds. Community-based participatory research for health. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2003: 155-178.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Senior Services (King County, WA). EnhanceFitness at Project Enhance. Available at Accessed on March 19, 2009.
  16. 16.
    Tennstedt S, Howland J, Lachman M, Peterson E, Kasten L, Jette A. A randomized, controlled trial of a group intervention to reduce fear of falling and associated activity restriction in older adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1998; 53(6): P384-P392.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Greenhalgh T, Robert G, Macfarlane F, Bate P, Kyriakidou O. Diffusion of innovations in service organizations: systematic review and recommendations. Milbank Q. 2004; 82(4): 581-629.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Joffres C, Heath S, Farquharson J, Barkhouse K, Latter C, MacLean DR. Facilitators and challenges to organizational capacity building in heart health promotion. Qual Health Res. 2004; 14(1): 39-60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen Cheadle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ruth Egger
    • 2
  • James P. LoGerfo
    • 1
  • Sheryl Schwartz
    • 1
  • Jeffrey R. Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Health Services, Health Promotion Research CenterUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Southeast Seattle Senior CenterSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations