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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs

New: MCHbest strategies database for sample ESMs

Evidence Tools
MCHbest. NPM 8: Physical Activity

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Strategy. Social Supports

Approach. Promote social networks, friendships, and community support groups to help maintain and encourage physical activity.

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Overview. For this strategy, social supports include social networks, peer-to-peer accountability, and other behavioral encouragement methods to incorporate physical activity into a community effort. These intervention methods can include organizations and community groups that allow many people to be physically active together. Examples of studies with positive outcomes used a variety of peer counseling and community efforts such selecting student leaders in a school to act as peer supporters to help engage fellow classmates and promote physical activity.1

Evidence. Emerging. Initial research showed positive results for strategies to use social supports to promote physical activity. Further research is needed to identify critical components and confirm effects. Further research is needed to identify critical components and confirm effects. This strategy has been tested more than once and results trend positive overall. Access the peer-reviewed evidence through the MCH Digital Library. (Read more about understanding evidence ratings).

Target Audience. Children/adolescents.

Outcome.  Increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity minutes per day. For detailed outcomes related to each study supporting this strategy, click on the peer-reviewed evidence link above and read the “Intervention Results” for each study.

Examples from the Field. Access descriptions of ESMs that use this strategy directly or intervention components that aligns with this strategy. You can use these ESMs to see how other Title V agencies are addressing the NPM.

Sample ESMs. Using the approach “Promote social networks, friendships, and community support groups to help maintain and encourage physical activity,” here are sample ESMs you can use to model for your own measures using the Results-Based Accountability framework (for suggestions on how to develop programs to support this strategy, see The Role of Title V in Adapting Strategies):

Quadrant 1:
Measuring Quantity of Effort
("What/how much did we do?")

  • Number of communities (cities, towns, etc.) with groups promoting physical activity in children/adolescents.
  • Number of schools with peer-support programs promoting physical activity.

Quadrant 2:
Measuring Quality of Effort
("How well did we do it?")

  • Percent of communities (cities, towns, etc.) with groups promoting physical activity in children/adolescents.
  • Percent of schools with peer-support programs promoting physical activity.

Quadrant 3:
Measuring Quantity of Effect
("Is anyone better off?")

  • Number of children/adolescents participating in peer-mentoring opportunities promoting physical activity.
  • Number of children/adolescents who report an increase in physical activity levels because of social supports.

Quadrant 4:
Measuring Quality of Effect
("How are they better off?")

  • Percent of children/adolescents who report meeting the goal of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity because of the social support they received.

Note. ESMs become stronger as they move from measuring quantity to measuring quality (moving from Quadrants 1 and 3, respectively, to Quadrants 2 and 4) and from measuring effort to measuring effect (moving from Quadrants 1 and 2, respectively, to Quadrants 3 and 4).

Learn More. Read how to create stronger ESMs and how to measure ESM impact more meaningfully through Results-Based Accountability.


References:

1 Sebire SJ, Banfield K, Campbell R, Edwards MJ, Kipping R, Kadir B, Garfield K, Matthews J, Blair PS, Lyons RA, Hollingworth W, Jago R. A peer-led physical activity intervention in schools for adolescent girls: A feasibility RCT. Public Health Research. 2019;7(16).

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.