Racial and ethnic minorities

  Population considerations:

  • Lack of time. In racial and ethnic minority populations, time is a consistent barrier to being physically active (Keller, 2006). Taking time out to focus on oneself, by temporarily removing oneself from the obligations of family and work to be physically active, may not be viewed as necessary in some racial and ethnic minority subgroups.
  • Access to health care. Racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have regular contact with their health care provider (Hargraves, 2003). Likewise, racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have adequate health insurance (Kaiser, 2007). As a result, they may seek care in acute care facilities or in emergency rooms.  Individuals without a regular health care provider may have symptoms that go unrecognized and undiagnosed, and may not receive recommendations to be physically active.
  • Culture. In some racial and ethnic minority communities, culture influences body image and physical activity levels (Banks-Wallace, 2002; Keller, 2006). These beliefs and norms may lead to different perceptions about the importance of being active.
  • Access to resources. Some racial and ethnic minority communities may not have access to places to be physically active (e.g., a park, a trail or a community center) due to financial barriers or the absence of these facilities in their communities (Keller, 2006).
  • Safety. Some racial and ethnic minority communities may not have a safe place to be physically active (Keller, 2006).  Safety concerns may include the physical environment, interpersonal crime and traffic.
  • Priorities.  Some racial and ethnic minority communities may have concerns other than physical activity that they consider more important to address with respect to community health.

  Strategies to address these considerations:

  • Involve the community of interest. It is important that individuals who are from the priority populations and are both bi-lingual and bi-cultural take an active role in planning, implementing and evaluating interventions (Banks-Wallace, 2002).
  • Engage community stakeholders. Leadership and active participation by community members, especially health care providers and community and religious leaders, can strengthen the credibility of and respect for the intervention (Banks-Wallace, 2002).  By engaging leaders and getting active participation by community members, you may be able to strengthen the credibility of and respect for the intervention.
  • Provide cultural competency training. Strategies to reach racial and ethnic minority populations should be culturally relevant (NCCC). It may be useful to provide training in cultural competency to individuals who are working with a community so that they can learn more about the differences within and across communities and how these differences influence physical activity interventions. See Cultural Competence for more information.
  • Tailor to culture. Interventions tailored to reflect the culture of a population subgroup might be more effective than those aimed at a population in general (USDHSS, 2000). This may mean taking into consideration characteristics such as the community’s primary language, common phrases and terms used by the community, visual imagery (e.g., photos, colors and symbols) that represents the community and their experiences when designing physical activity intervention components, materials and incentives (Banks-Wallace, 2002; Keller, 2006). 
  • Use established settings. Strategies should maximize participation in the intervention by having meetings or events at convenient locations and times (Banks-Wallace, 2002). It may be useful to align interventions with church or community social events.
  • Recognize the influence of culture. Strategies should emphasize the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity rather focusing solely on weight loss (Banks-Wallace, 2002; Wilcox, 2002). In some communities, group events are preferred to individual activities to promote social support and a family-like atmosphere (Banks-Wallace, 2002, Keller, 2006). 
  • Address barriers related to time. Encourage ways of being active that include shorter, more frequent bouts of activity rather than longer time commitments (Banks-Wallace, 2002). Provide participants with ideas for incorporating physical activity into their daily lives (e.g., parking farther from destinations, taking the stairs, walking during breaks).
  • Address safety concerns. There are several types of safety to consider.  For example, you might want to ensure that the equipment available is in good working order and safe for use.  It is also important to consider interpersonal safety.  This might include creating buddy systems so people do not have to walk alone or creating neighborhood watch programs. It is also important to ensure safety in terms of the physical environment (e.g., improvements in sidewalks and walking trails, installation of crossing aids, creation of leash laws).
  • Address participant needs. Consider providing childcare and transportation to increase participation (Banks-Wallace, 2002).
  • Build social support. Consider building social support within the community to address safety concerns and retain participants (Banks-Wallace, 2002).

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