Evaluation of a civic engagement approach to catalyze built environment change and promote healthy eating and physical activity among rural residents: a cluster (community) randomized controlled trial

Rebecca A. Seguin-Fowler, Karla L. Hanson, Deyaun Villarreal, Chad D. Rethorst, Priscilla Ayine, Sara C. Folta, Jay E. Maddock, Megan S. Patterson, Grace A. Marshall, Leah C. Volpe, Galen D. Eldridge, Meghan Kershaw, Vi Luong, Hua Wang, Don Kenkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Prior studies demonstrate associations between risk factors for obesity and related chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease) and features of the built environment. This is particularly true for rural populations, who have higher rates of obesity, cancer, and other chronic diseases than urban residents. There is also evidence linking health behaviors and outcomes to social factors such as social support, opposition, and norms. Thus, overlapping social networks that have a high degree of social capital and community cohesion, such as those found in rural communities, may be effective targets for introducing and maintaining healthy behaviors. Methods: This study will evaluate the effectiveness of the Change Club (CC) intervention, a civic engagement intervention for built environment change to improve health behaviors and outcomes for residents of rural communities. The CC intervention provides small groups of community residents (approximately 10–14 people) with nutrition and physical activity lessons and stepwise built environment change planning workshops delivered by trained extension educators via in-person, virtual, or hybrid methods. We will conduct process, multilevel outcome, and cost evaluations of implementation of the CC intervention in a cluster randomized controlled trial in 10 communities across two states using a two-arm parallel design. Change in the primary outcome, American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 composite cardiovascular health score, will be evaluated among CC members, their friends and family members, and other community residents and compared to comparable samples in control communities. We will also evaluate changes at the social/collective level (e.g., social cohesion, social trust) and examine costs as well as barriers and facilitators to implementation. Discussion: Our central hypothesis is the CC intervention will improve health behaviors and outcomes among engaged citizens and their family and friends within 24 months. Furthermore, we hypothesize that positive changes will catalyze critical steps in the pathway to improving longer-term health among community residents through improved healthy eating and physical activity opportunities. This study also represents a unique opportunity to evaluate process and cost-related data, which will provide key insights into the viability of this approach for widespread dissemination. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT05002660, Registered 12 August 2021.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1674
Pages (from-to)1674
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 4 2022


  • Built environment
  • Civic engagement
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Rural health equity
  • Social influence
  • Health Promotion/methods
  • Humans
  • Obesity/prevention & control
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Built Environment
  • Exercise
  • Rural Population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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