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Bridging the gap between research and practice: an assessment of external validity of community-based physical activity programs in Bogotá, Colombia, and Recife, Brazil


For more than a decade, physical activity classes have been offered in public places at no cost to the participants in some Latin American cities, however, internal and external validity evidence of these programs is limited. The goals of this study were to assess, report, and compare the external validity of the Recreovia program (RCP) in Colombia, and the Academia da Cidade program (ACP) in Brazil. Interviews to assess external validity of the RCP and ACP were conducted in 2012. The interview guide was developed based on the RE-AIM framework. Seventeen key informants were selected to participate in the study. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analyzed using a constant comparative qualitative method and experts validated common themes. RCP and ACP key informants reported that both programs reach underserved population. There is no information available about effectiveness. Both programs take place in public spaces (e.g., parks and plazas), which are selected for adoption mainly based on community demand. RCP and ACP offer free physical activity classes with educational and cultural components, have a strong organizational structure for implementation, and differ on schedule and content of classes. Funding sources were reported to play an important role on long-term maintenance. Facilitators and barriers were identified. Programs are similar in the reach and adoption elements; the main differences were found on implementation and maintenance, whereas information on effectiveness was not found. Reporting external validity of these programs is useful to bridge the gap between research and practice.

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This study was funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prevention Research Centers Program contract U48/DP001903. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the author (s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was also supported by the CNPQ (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnologico) scholarship (202418/2011). Dr. Sarmiento was funded by Colciencias Project Number: 1204-569-33567 contract 453-2012. The authors thank all interviewed participants in the study, Edwin Pinzon and Rodrigo Lima for the collaboration during the data collection; Carlos M. Arango for assisting in the development of the survey protocol; Alberto Flórez and Danielle Cruz for validating the information collected, special thanks to Amy Eyler for her valuable input on the data analysis, and all members of Project GUIA for their contributions.

Conflict of Interest

Diana C. Paez, Rodrigo S. Reis, Diana C. Parra, Christine M. Hoehner, Olga L. Sarmiento, Mauro Barros, and Ross C. Brownson declare that they have no conflict of interest. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Washington University in St. Louis and Universidad de los Andes.

Author information

Correspondence to Diana C Paez MPH.

Additional information


Research: Qualitative methods help to bridge the gap between research and practice for public health interventions that have the potential to be widely adopted and scaled up.

Practitioners: Physical activity community programs are sensitive to cultural context (e.g., regions of a country) and need political and community support to be maintained.

Policymakers: Evaluators of regional and national physical activity policies should assess a range of external validity elements to help determine how easily an effective intervention can be translated from one setting to another.

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Paez, D.C., Reis, R.S., Parra, D.C. et al. Bridging the gap between research and practice: an assessment of external validity of community-based physical activity programs in Bogotá, Colombia, and Recife, Brazil. Behav. Med. Pract. Policy Res. 5, 1–11 (2015).

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  • Community programs
  • Dissemination
  • Exercise
  • External validity
  • Physical activity
  • Public health
  • Colombia
  • Brazil