- Rural communities face many factors that may contribute to an obesogenic
environment which include poorer food options (highly processed, low cost, and energy dense), reduced physical activity opportunities and resources, increased reliance on automobiles, and social aspects such isolation and neighborhood safety. Sub-optimal school contexts hinder students' healthy eating and physical activity before, during and after school. Active school transit is difficult for children in rural communities because of spatial distance to students' homes. Rural communities often have insufficient outdoor and indoor spaces for active recreation. Access, availability and affordability of nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables are limited in rural environments.
The overarching goal of Generating Rural Options for Weight Healthy Kids and Communities (GROW HKC) is to prevent childhood obesity. The 5-year study included selected rural communities within Oregon and five participating Western states (AZ, CO, NM, NV, and WA). One specific aim of the project was to plan, implement and evaluate a multi-level intervention targeting rural home, school, and community contexts to improve eating habits, increase physical activity and improve BMI trends in elementary school-age children. To do so, Extension personnel were trained to support weight healthy community development, participatory action research tools were created and used to assess community resources and readiness, and guide community-driven, environmentally based obesity prevention strategies. A process evaluation was implemented to better understand the relationship between Extension intervention efforts and changes to the obesogenic environment. Qualitative data sources, including personnel daily effort and activity logs, and documentation of changes in school and community resources were imported, coded, and analyzed using QSR NVivo 10 to describe community capacity building strategies and activities the GROW staff implemented in the Clackamas County intervention. Domains of capacity buildings that emerged included participation, leadership, problem assessment, and role of the outside agent.