Strength Training in Community Settings: Impact of Lay Leaders on Program Access and Sustainability for Rural Older Adults

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

The effect of volunteer lay leaders on availability and sustainability of strength-training programs for older adults has not been well explored. We describe implementation of the StrongWomen strength training program by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and report on the relationship between delivery approach (agent-led, lay-led, or combination of agent- and lay-led) and program access and sustainability.

Methods:

All state Extension agents (n = 66) were surveyed on program implementation, continuance, and use of lay leaders. Program records were used to identify the number of trained lay leaders. Regression models were used to examine the relationship between delivery approach and group availability.

Results:

Counties using lay leaders had twice as many groups as counties using only agents. There was a significant, positive relationship between the number of lay leaders and the number of groups. Counties using lay leaders were 8.3 times more likely to have continuing groups compared with counties not using lay leaders.

Conclusions:

Program continuance was significantly and positively associated with lay leader use. Lay delivery expanded access to strength training programs and increased the likelihood that programs would continue. This approach can be used to increase access to and sustainability of strength training programs, particularly in resource-constrained areas.

Washburn (lwashburn@uaex.edu) and Traywick are with the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Little Rock, AR. Cornell is with the Dept of Health Behavior and Health Education, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Phillips is with the Dept of Epidemiology, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Felix is with the Dept of Health Policy and Management, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR.