Her latest clinical trial, iMove, is focused on understanding the various social and environmental influences on physical activity in sedentary minority adults, particularly targeting Latinos and African-Americans.
Research shows that only one-third of adults in the United States get the recommended amount of physical activity. The problem is even greater among some ethnic minority groups. In fact, African-Americans and Latinos have the lowest rates of physical activity and the highest rates of inactivity.
"Lack of physical activity can contribute to a number of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and obesity," McNeill says. "Physical activity can have a profound improvement on a person's quality of life. Our research is designed to help these specific target groups engage and maintain moderate-intensity activity."
Going where no one else has gone
Aptly named, iMove examines the influences that affect a person's ability to initiate and maintain physical activity, and identifies changes that occur during the course of physical activity. Some changes that are being monitored include reducing perceived environmental barriers and psychosocial stressors.
"Most physical activity studies show that programs are successful in getting people to start exercising, but that maintenance is poor," McNeill says. "Engaging in physical activity is a complex behavior that is notably difficult to maintain."
iMove is going where other studies haven't ventured -- into the community, focused on minorities and with one-year follow-up. "Past studies involving physical activity are conducted in controlled environments or clinics with a few months of follow-up," McNeill says.
Funded by the National Cancer Institute, iMove is a community-based lifestyle program. Different lifestyle characteristics including cultural behaviors, social status and demographics can affect how a person views the importance of exercise and physical activity.
Other circumstances, including stress, depression or social support may also play a role in the ability to engage in physical activity. "Incorporating the research program in the community gives realistic results," McNeill says.
Becoming a participant
After an initial phone call eligible participants are screened at MD Anderson, where baseline data is collected. Participants receive a pedometer, a smartphone to track their activity, a physical activity prescription based on the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines and the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Toolbox.
Participants also receive a monthly newsletter tailored to each phase of the program and have five additional assessments at MD Anderson.
"We're hoping that this program will help identity factors that contribute to a person's ability to be physically active on their own," McNeill explains. "What we learn from the data collected will help design better programs or offer opportunities for physical activity engagement to help African-Americans and Latinos have a better quality of life and live longer."
To participate in iMove, you must:
live within Harris County and in the Houston city limits,
be African-American or an English-speaking Latino,