Linking patients with community resources: use of a free YMCA membership among low-income black women

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Given the increasing interest in expanding obesity prevention efforts to cover community-based programs, we examined whether individuals would access a YMCA for physical activity promotion. We provided a no-cost 12-month YMCA membership to socioeconomically disadvantaged black women who were randomized to the intervention arm of a weight gain prevention trial (n = 91). Analyses examined associations of membership activation and use with baseline psychosocial, contextual, health-related, and sociodemographic factors. Many participants (70.3 %) activated their memberships; however, use was low (42.2 % had no subsequent visits, 46.9 % had one to ten visits). There were no predictors of membership activation, but individuals living below/borderline the federal poverty line were more likely to use the center (1+ visits), as were those who met physical activity guidelines at baseline. More comprehensive and intensive interventions may be necessary to promote use of community resources—even when provided free—among high-risk populations of women with obesity that live in rural areas of the USA.

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Translational Behavioral Medicine