Pamela Bowen, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Alabama Birmingham, is about to launch a new research study on how to best address the low level of physical activity among older African Americans in the South. Previous research has found that more than 55 percent of African-American adults are considered physically inactive. The new study is being funded by a $330,446 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Bowen plans to determine what policies and procedures can support discussions about physical activity between health care providers and their patients, and whether the mandating of such policies and procedures can increase the frequency of those discussions.
The study will examine whether clinics have policies and procedures that encourage or require healthcare practitioners to discuss physical activity with their patients and whether these procedures are followed by healthcare providers. The study will include interviews with patients immediately after their appointments with their health care provider to ask whether physical activity is discussed at all.
Dr. Bowen notes that “patients go to their doctors at least once a year. During the visit I would like for the physician, the nurse practitioner, someone to talk with them about physical activity like it was a vital sign. We check their blood pressure, their pulse and their temperature, so why not check to see if they are engaging in physical activity as well? I would really like to come up with some kind of intervention to increase physical activity in the African-American population because we are so disproportionally burdened with diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. All those conditions can be managed with a regular program of physical activity, and instead of it being a reactive measure, it should be a preventive measure used with all patients.”
Dr. Bowen holds bachelor’s, master’s. and doctoral degrees, all from the University of Alabama Birmingham.