Principal Investigator: Larrell Wilkinson, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in African American men in the Deep South. One of the major challenges confronting the fields of public health and medicine is to understand why African American men experience greater rates of CVD events (myocardial infarction and stroke), complications, and mortality than European American males.

While the etiology of the disparities is not completely understood, higher rates of overweight/obesity, hypertension and type 2 diabetes are considered primary candidates.

Therapeutic lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise produce beneficial effects on metabolism which occur even in the absence of weight loss. Despite well-known benefits, exercise participation in exercise and dietary interventions remain lower in African American men than European American men.

Understanding the barriers and motivational factors which influence lifestyle change among racial and ethnic minority males across the life cycle represents a crucial gap in the field and is one of the primary objectives of the project.

Population studies indicate African American men participate in the least amount of leisure time PA among male subgroups. Studies also indicate the African American men score significantly lower on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) than the healthiest eaters (EA females) and African Americans report receiving less sleep when compared to EAs. Many studies to increase health promoting behaviors (HPBs) in African Americans have focused on African American women.

Instead, the purpose of this study is to examine PA, sleep, and dietary behaviors in African American men, while employing a goal-based strategy within a social network to improve HPBs. The research team will collaborate with a community partner to recruit, enroll, and train 250 African American men to lose weight. We will test if a coaching modality is beneficial in aiding men to lose weight and improve their physiological markers.

Doer vs. non-doer analysis will be performed to help elucidate factors that support a favorable response to coaching versus non-favorable response.

The proposed study will provide information regarding the knowledge, practices, and attitudes regarding physical activity, sleep, and diet among overweight/obese African American men.

Additionally, the study may help identify an health intervention strategy to improve health promoting behaviors among this sub-group. If successful, the proposal may help lower the burden of chronic disease within this population.