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Office of External Communications

Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax: 713.743.8199

May 23, 2005

Contact: Marisa Ramirez
713.743.8152 (office)
713.310.1644 (pager)

Five-Year Study Examines African American, Hispanic Women

HOUSTON, May 23, 2005—The National Institutes of Health has awarded a University of Houston professor a
$3 million, five-year grant to study the effects of neighborhood environment and group support on physical activity among minority women. Rebecca Lee, assistant professor of health and human performance, says the study, the first of its kind, will examine African American and Hispanic women.

“This research will provide valuable insight into an area in which there is little information, and that is women of color and the factors that influence their physical activity,” Lee said. “Our findings could have far reaching effects that lead to better environments and healthier lives.”

Lee’s pilot study, Maintaining Physical Activity in Ethnic Minority Women, followed three groups of African American women for five weeks. Their charge was to support each other as they worked toward a group goal of walking 125 miles in five weeks. A control group had the same charge, but did not have to accomplish the goal as a group. At the end of the five-week period, those who had group support achieved their goal while many in the control group did not.

“We will now expand the study to six months,” Lee said. “We’ll also employ an urban designer who will use the data to determine whether people are more likely to engage in physical activity in environments that are more inviting, such as tree-lined areas, neighborhoods with sidewalks, near schools or churches and away from traffic.”

Lee says the study is unique in its examination of two groups of women of color—African American women in Houston and Hispanic women in Austin. She says these two groups are at high risk for obesity and other related diseases, yet there is not a lot of research into the factors involved in pursuing physical activity. The research will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Houston, the University of Texas at Austin and Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

“This information could guide policy on how we build our cities and living environments,” Lee said. “This could go a long way in encouraging and leading healthy lives.”

Lee has done extensive research on the subject of obesity, in particular the neighborhood factors that may lead to obesity such as availability and quality of fresh produce.

Related story http://www.uh.edu/admin/media/nr/2004/11nov/112904obesitystudy.html

For more information on the UH Health and Human Performance Department, please visit http://www.hhp.uh.edu

For more on Rebecca Lee’s research on obesity, please visit http://hhp.uh.edu/undo/StudentRA.htm

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