A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

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In 2001, in recognition of the increase in obesity in the U.S., the Office on Women's Health (OWH) conducted formative research with school nurses, moms and other caregivers, and their daughters, to ask them what tools and information they needed to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight. OWH developed the first BodyWorks toolkit based on the results of that research. 

The toolkit was a collection of tools (checklists, journals, a cookbook, etc.) and educational materials (booklets, DVDs, etc.) for moms and daughters. The focus of the toolkit materials was on increasing healthy eating and physical activity.  OWH then tested the toolkit materials with families in several different communities and made a series of changes based on the feedback received from parents and caregivers.  OWH also culturally adapted the toolkit materials for Spanish-speaking communities and tested those materials in Latino communities.   With the development of a curriculum (in both English and Spanish) to train BodyWorks program leaders in local communities, and an independent pilot evaluation, the program formally launched in 2006.

What is formative research? Formative research helps program planners understand the needs of the target population and their communities to best design and implement a program to meet their needs.

In 2010, the program was updated to include the entire family (men and teen and preteen boys), at the overwhelming request of participants and program leaders. Today the primary audience for the BodyWorks program is parents and caregivers of girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 14. Teens and preteens are invited to attend each BodyWorks session with their parent(s) or caregiver, but children's attendance is not required.

In 2012, OWH updated the BodyWorks program materials to include:

BodyWorks Evidence Base

BodyWorks is based on several proven behavior change and learning theories. These include:

  • Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change) (Prochaska)
  • Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura)
    • Observational learning (modeling)
    • Self-efficacy (a person's confidence in his or her ability to perform a behavior)
    • Goal setting
    • Behavioral capability (knowing what to do and how to do it)
  • Motivational Interviewing (Miller & Rollnick)
  • Adult Learning Principles (Knowles)
  • Gagne's Nine Instructional Principles

More information about these theories can be viewed at NCI's Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice.

All healthy eating and physical activity recommendations in BodyWorks are evidence-based. The nutrition information is from the HHS evidence-based 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The physical activity information is from the HHS evidence-based 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

All of the strategies taught in the 8-week BodyWorks program match recommendations provided in the Harvard School of Public Health's evidence-based Obesity Prevention Recommendations for Families.

Content last updated: December 08, 2015.

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