July 18, 2016
2 min read

Tailored intervention successful in helping overweight lesbian, bisexual women adopt healthier habits

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A multisite intervention across 10 U.S. cities, funded by the HHS Office of Women’s Health, and using tailor-made approaches, improved several healthy behaviors in lesbian and bisexual women, according to data published in Women’s Health Issues.

“Evidence from several published studies indicates that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be obese than heterosexual women,” Jane A. McElroy, PhD, of the department of family and community medicine, at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, and colleagues wrote. “A review of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) literature found no published intervention research addressing this issue in [lesbian and bisexual] women. To address this gap, the [HHS] Office on Women’s Health provided funding for a coordinated multisite initiative, the Healthy Weight in Lesbian and Bisexual Women: Striving for a Healthy Community program.”

In all, 266 women aged 40 or older who were overweight and self-identified as lesbian, bisexual or “something else” — transgender women were eligible for participation if they met the above criteria — took part in five pilot interventions lasting 12 or 16 weeks. Programs were located in Berkeley, El Cerrito, San Francisco, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, in California; Columbia and St. Louis, in Missouri; Silver Spring, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and New York.

The tailor-made interventions were located in lesbian and bisexual community spaces and included weekly group meetings, nutrition education and physical activity. Three sites had non-intervention control groups. Researchers assessed consumption of fruits, vegetables, sugary beverages and alcohol, as well as physical activity and quality of life, through standardized questionnaires. Weight and waist-to-height ratios were obtained through direct measurement or self-reporting.

According to the researchers, 95% of the participants achieved at least one of the health objectives, with 58% achieving three or more. The 43 participants in the pedometer program and the 160 in the mindfulness program were more likely to increase total physical activity minutes (pedometer RR = 1.67; 95% CI, 1.18-2.36; P = .004; mindfulness RR = 1.38; 95% CI, 1.01-1.89; P = .042). The 63 participants in the gym program were more likely to decrease their waist-to-height ratio (RR = 1.89; 95% CI, 0.97-3.68; P = .06), compared with the 67 women in the control group.

“These results may rest on three common components across the sites,” McElroy and colleagues wrote. “One commonality was partnering with local LGBT community or resource centers that provided a safe space. These partnerships also supported enrollment of [lesbian and bisexual] participants into the intervention. Expert [lesbian and bisexual] community advice also contributed to effective implementation of the projects. The other two common themes were the encouragement of more physical activity and the weekly group support meetings that addressed health-related topics and concerns as well as provided crucial support and networking opportunities in an [lesbian and bisexual] women-supportive environment.” – by Jason Laday

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.