Background: Combating the physical inactivity crisis and improving health and quality of life is a challenge and a public health priority, especially in underserved populations. A key role of public health consists of informing, educating, and empowering individuals and communities about health issues. Researchers have found that mass communication messages often have limited effectiveness in reaching and impacting the health of underserved populations. The present pilot study was designed to explore perceptions of older African American women (AAW) in response to widely disseminated public information pertaining to physical activity (PA) and aging. Methods: A total of 10 older AAW aged 60 years and over participated in this study. Participants were evenly assigned in one of the 2 focus groups (i.e. active, n∈=∈5; and inactive, n∈=∈5) based on their PA level. The focus group approach was employed to gather information about widely available public information materials related to PA that target the adult and older adult population. The three guides used were: (1) Exercise and Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide; (2) The Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults; and (3) Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults. NVIVO 10 software was used to help in the qualitative data analysis. Descriptive thematic analysis was employed in identifying, analyzing and reporting patterns/themes within the data. Results: Older AAW in the present study identified some shortcomings in current public health materials. Participants from both focus groups raised concerns regarding language and the types of activities used as examples in the materials. After analysis, two themes emerged: "We may have trouble in reading it" and "It does not reflect us". Participants' evaluation was found to be similar between the active and inactive focus groups. Conclusions: Older AAW's perceptions of the materials suggest that materials intended to educate and motivate the general public towards PA need to be modified to better speak to older African American women, especially to those who are sedentary and have difficulty in building PA into their daily lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number962
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 25 2015


  • African American
  • Focus groups
  • Health communication
  • Health promotion
  • Older adults
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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