Online Program

An Exploration of Individual and Interpersonal Influences on Physical Activity among Black Women in Sororities

Monday, November 2, 2015

Brittny Wells, DrPH, CHES, Department of Behavior Sciences and Social Medicine, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Ivette A. López, PhD, MPH, Institute of Public Health, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL
Brenda Jarmon, PhD, MSW, Department of Social Work, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL
Melva V. Thompson-Robinson, DrPH, Center for Health Disparities Research, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Torhonda Lee, PhD, Institute of Public Health, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, FL
Matthew Dutton, PH.D, Institute of Public Health, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, FL

National obesity rates demonstrate that significant geographic, income, racial and ethnic disparities persist; however, rates remain highest in the South among Black women. The number of Black women obtaining college degrees is increasing and the subsequent accompanying lifestyle provides limited time for participation in physical activity (PA).


This qualitative study aimed to uncover influences on PA among Black women who are members of the Beta Delta Sigma chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. in Tallahassee, Florida. All of the women in this chapter hold at least a bachelor’s degree, which allows access to a population that has not yet been targeted regarding PA.


Women in this chapter believed that sorority members are role models for the community and their presence within the community can be mutually advantageous. While women who were single and/or without children reported more time for PA than those who were married or had children, they also reported having other familial obligations that were highly prioritized in their lives. It did not appear that the type of occupation or number of hours prevented this group from participating in PA and reasons for prioritizing PA varied among respondents.


Results from this study have implications for future development and/or implementation of interventions to reduce obesity among a group that has demonstrated a high level of influence on their communities. Further, this research can guide future programming efforts of Black sororities (and potentially fraternities) by highlighting the role that these entities play within their communities.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Assess knowledge of and adherence to national physical activity guidelines among Black women in graduate chapters of National Pan-Hellenic Council sororities. Identify domains of physical activity that are more common among Black women in sororities compared to the literature on older Black women and Black women of lower socioeconomic status. Formulate a contextual model using a grounded theory approach to explain influences on physical activity among Black women in sororities. Investigate influences of physical activity among Black women of higher socioeconomic status than what is currently represented in the literature. Explain the social context of sorority membership and its influence on participation in physical activity. Describe the influence of varying levels of social support on physical activity participation among Black women in sororities. Apply the social ecological model to the context of physical activity among Black women in sororities.

Keyword(s): Women's Health, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have an extensive background in the planning, development, and implementation of program efforts to improve the health status of vulnerable populations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.