Collaborative planning for formative assessment and cultural appropriateness in the Girls health Enrichment Multi-site Studies (GEMS): A retrospection

Shiriki K. Kumanyika, Mary Story, Bettina M. Beech, Nancy E Sherwood, Janice C. Baranowski, Tiffany M. Powell, Karen W. Cullen, Ayisha S. Owens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objective: The Girls health Enrichment Multi-site Studies (GEMS), Phase 1, developed and pilot-tested interventions to prevent obesity in African-American preadolescent girls. This article describes the collaborative planning process undertaken to take full advantage of formative assessment activities for improving contextual relevance and cultural appropriateness. Design: Working group activities were designed to stimulate awareness and reflection among group members and, through them, among other field center investigators and staff about developmental, cultural, and contextual issues for formative assessment. Setting: Telephone, Internet, and face-to-face interactions across GEMS field centers in Houston, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Palo Alto, California. Participants: Investigators and staff involved in intervention development. Main Outcome Measures: The utility of the process was judged from feedback by participants and field center principal investigators about the contribution of the collaborative effort to improving the perceived relevance and cultural appropriateness of formative assessment data collection and interpretation. Results: A working bibliography was compiled. A detailed matrix of programmatic, child, family, and contextual issues related to ethnicity, socioeconomic status, general health and lifestyle, food, physical activity, and body image/weight control was completed. Additional guidance was derived from a workshop that involved scholars with expertise in aspects of African-American culture, child development, and family processes. Conclusions: This process improved the breadth and depth of GEMS formative assessment activities by increasing the appreciation of the complex structural, contextual, and personal forces at play. A similar process may be useful to other investigators when attempting to develop culturally appropriate interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S1-15-S1-29
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • African American
  • Cross-cultural
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Physical Activity
  • Prevention
  • Program planning


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