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“I Want a Program That Looks at My Whole Life.” A Focus Group Study on the Ideal Components for an mHealth Weight Management Program for African American Women

Published:August 02, 2021DOI:



      The high rate of obesity, ownership of smartphones, and online search for nutrition and dieting information among African American women (AAW) provide a unique opportunity to develop cost-effective, accessible, and acceptable mHealth weight management programs for them. Furthermore, they should participate in the development and evaluation of these programs.


      To explore ideal components of a culturally relevant mHealth weight management program for AAW and to examine how these components may vary by age group.


      Twelve focus group triads were conducted with AAW in north central Florida. The framework method was used to manage, organize, synthesize, and analyze data themes by age groups: 18 to 29 (young), 30 to 50 (middle age), and 51+ (older).


      Thirty-six smartphone owners who expressed a desire to lose weight were recruited through several community partnerships.


      Based on body mass index (BMI), young women were classified as overweight (BMI 26.23 ± 6.7), middle-aged women as obese (BMI30.72 ± 8.31), and older women as obese (BMI 31.03 ± 5.67). Most searched online for dieting information within the past 12 months. Five overarching themes for designing mHealth weight management programs were identified: (1) holistic program that goes beyond dieting; (2) social media integration for support and sense of community; (3) self-monitoring app; (4) two-way text messaging; and (5) programs of varying lengths and meaningful incentives.


      AAW were receptive to mHealth weight management programs, which may be appealing during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Holistic programs of 4 to 6 weeks that addressed stress eating, had a social media component, and included a few educational texts per week may be appealing to AAW.


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      D. C. S. James is an associate professor, Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville.


      C. Harville is an assistant professor, Department of Public Health and Recreation Professions, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL.


      D. S. McQueen is a graduate student, Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville.


      J. A. Facey is an undergraduate student, Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, Gainesville.