This study was carried out to test the effectiveness of PATHWAYS, a weight loss program designed specifically for urban African-American women, when administered in urban churches by trained lay facilitators.


Thirty-nine obese women were recruited from three urban African-American churches. After randomization and the collection of baseline data on weight and lifestyle practices, subjects in the experimental group (n = 19) were assigned to receive a 14-week weight loss program (PATHWAYS) conducted by trained lay volunteers; control group subjects (n = 20) were put on a waiting list to receive the program at the conclusion of the study period.


Of the 39 women enrolled, 15 experimental group subjects and 18 control group subjects were available for posttreatment data collection. After completing the program, PATHWAYS participants lost an average of 10.0 lb, and the control group subjects gained an average of 1.9 lb. Posttreatment difference in weight loss between the groups was statistically significant (P < 0.0001). Waist circumference among PATHWAYS participants decreased 2.5 inches, while waist circumference among control group subjects remained relatively the same. This difference between the groups was statistically significant (P < 0.05).


A weight loss program administered by trained lay volunteers was effective in producing significant and clinically meaningful weight loss among African-American women who often do not benefit from typical weight loss programs. Ongoing research is focusing on whether the weight loss can be maintained or enhanced through monthly reinforcement sessions.

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