Current Projects

Principal Investigator

Michael G. Perri, PhD, ABPP

Rural LEAP

In the new five-year study, Rural Lifestyle Eating and Activity Program (Rural LEAP), researchers will compare three strategies for long-term weight management: individual phone counseling, group phone counseling and counseling via email or U.S. mail. If effective, group phone counseling could represent a more cost-effective treatment option that could reach larger numbers of patients.

The study will include 540 men and women ages 21 – 75 with a body mass index of 30 – 45 living in rural counties in north Florida. All participants will participate in a four-month lifestyle program with face-to-face group sessions led by local providers at UF/IFAS Extension county offices. During the sessions, trained extension agents will use cognitive-behavioral strategies to help participants modify eating and exercise habits. Program content has been tailored to address concerns voiced by rural residents in previous studies, such as strategies for coping with stress and a lack of social support for weight loss, techniques for eating away from home, and cooking demonstrations of low-fat, low-calorie versions of traditional Southern dishes. Participants also will be instructed to exercise at a moderate intensity for 210 minutes per week, equivalent to 30 minutes of walking a day.

Participating counties may include:

  • Baker County

  • Bradford County

  • Columbia County

  • Dixie County

  • Flagler County

  • Gilchrist County

  • Hamilton County

  • Levy County

  • Madison County

  • Putnam County

  • Suwannee County

  • Taylor County

  • Union County

Following the intervention program, participants will be randomized to one of the three 12-month follow-up treatment programs. Counselors will focus on helping participants sustain the eating and physical activity changes they made during the initial four months of treatment.

At the conclusion of 22 months of participation, researchers will evaluate the program’s cost-effectiveness, as well as its effect on participants’ weight, physical activity, nutrition, blood pressure, lipid profiles and blood sugar levels.

UF co-investigators include Marian Limacher, M.D., of the College of Medicine; Linda Bobroff, Ph.D., R.D., from the Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences; and David Janicke, Ph.D., and Danny Martin, Ph.D., P.T., of the College of Public Health and Health Professions. Rural LEAP is supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number R18HL112720.

To learn more about participating,

call us toll free at 1-877-273-5235!

Who can participate?

  • Men and women between 21 and 75 years of age

  • Currently living in a rural county

  • Have no serious illnesses

  • Able to attend a group program and ready to change eating and exercise habits

  • Able to complete three health assessments over the course of two years

  • Weight between the lowest and highest value for height in the following table:

Height Lowest Wt. Highest Wt.
4 ft 10 143 215
4 ft 11 148 222
5 ft 0 153 230
5 ft 1 158 238
5 ft 2 164 246
5 ft 3 169 254
5 ft 4 174 262
5 ft 5 180 270
5 ft 6 186 278
5 ft 7 191 287
5 ft 8 197 295
5 ft 9 203 304
5 ft 10 209 313
5 ft 11 215 322
6 ft 0 221 331
6 ft 1 227 340
6 ft 2 233 350
6 ft 3 240 359
6 ft 4 246 369
6 ft 5 252 379

What will I be asked to do?

  • Eligible adults will participate in a no-cost healthy lifestyle program.

  • The goals of the program are to help participants lose weight, increase fitness, improve nutrition, and manage stress.

  • Sessions will be conducted by leaders with expertise in weight management, nutrition, and physical fitness.

  • Compensation for travel to sessions will be provided.

  • Activities will take place at participating County Extension Offices.

Why is this study important?

  • More and more Americans are becoming overweight.

  • The rates of overweight are especially high in rural areas of the country.

  • Being overweight increases a person’s risk for certain health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

  • Being overweight can also have a negative impact on the way people feel about themselves.

  • Until now, there has been little access to weight management programs in rural areas.

  • This study will examine ways to help individuals from rural counties to manage weight and improve fitness.

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