An after-school obesity prevention program for African-American girls: The Minnesota GEMS pilot study

Mary Story, Nancy E. Sherwood, John H. Himes, Marsha Davis, David R. Jacobs, Yolanda Cartwright, Mary Smyth, James Rochon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations


Objective: This paper describes the development of an after-school obesity-prevention program for African-American girls, and presents findings from a 12-week pilot trial conducted by the University of Minnesota. This study was part of the GEMS project, created to test interventions designed to reduce excess weight gain in African-American girls. Design: Two-arm parallel group, randomized controlled trial. Measures were taken at baseline and at 12 weeks follow up. Setting: An after-school community program. Participants: Fifty-four African-American girls, 8- to 10-years of age, and their parents/caregivers. Intervention: The after-school intervention was conducted twice a week for 12 weeks, and focused on increasing physical activity and healthy eating. A family component was also included. Girls in the control group received a program over 12 weeks unrelated to nutrition and physical activity. Outcomes: Measures included height and weight (body mass index), percent body fat (DEXA), physical activity, assessed using a CSA accelerometer and self-report, two 24-hour dietary recalls, and psycho-social and demographic variables. Parental data included demographic and psycho-social characteristics, and dietary measures. Additionally, process evaluation data on the intervention were collected. Results: Recruitment goals were met. After adjustment for baseline level, follow-up BMI did not differ between the treatment groups, an expected finding, given that this was a pilot study. At 12 weeks follow up, differences between the intervention and control groups were in the hypothesized direction of change for most variables, among both the girls and their parents. Process evaluation results demonstrated that the program was well attended, and well received, by girls and parents. Conclusions: An after-school obesity prevention program for low-income African-American girls is a promising model for future efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S1-54-S1-64
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Adolescents
  • African-American
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Food Intake
  • Obesity
  • Primary prevention


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