Community-based participatory research to tackle the disparities in health enhancing lifestyle within the municipality environment.

Project Details


Abstract (max 1 page)

Background: Unhealthy behaviors like insufficient physical activity and unhealthy eating tend to cluster in the same individuals and socio-economic deprived groups, with health impacts likely to be greater than would be predicted from the combination of individual risk factors. Certain environments are more ‘obesogenic’ than others. Single factor interventions are less likely to be effective in these groups than more holistic approaches to change the causes that lead to the combination of adverse behaviors. The link to developing successful strategies on reducing health inequalities related to these unhealthy lifestyle factors is limited. Therefore, there is a need to better understand the local context for these socio-economic disadvantaged groups, while generating a better understanding of how research findings can be most effectively translated into policy and practice.

Methods: The study has an important community based participatory research component to integrate research with community-capacity building to bridge knowledge development and health promotion practice in communities. It foresees an active involvement of local government, stakeholders, volunteers and citizens through the whole study period. An evaluation of this capacity-building process will be done. The setting will be three Flemish municipalities with a higher score on indicators related to poverty and social exclusion. The study deploys a mixed-methods approach, mirrored in each municipality. The study includes the recruitment of 1500 adult (25-65 years old) in each municipality for a survey capturing obesity related lifestyle and their individual barriers and opportunities, as well as a perception of the local physical, food and social environment. Additional, qualitative context information will be gathered in focus groups with socio-economic disadvantaged persons by using more visualizing methods like PhotoVoice, Walk-Along, web-based Individual Map Creation and Group Model Building. The study will also measure the physical and food retail environment of the municipalities using GIS (geographic information system) data.

Discussion: The CIVISANO study has been designed by a multidisciplinary team and integrates differing methodologies to purposefully impact on policy and practice on healthy living in municipalities. The strong knowledge exchange and capacity building in the local setting means that the study is expected to contribute to our understanding of how to maximize research impact in this field and create effective evidence in linking health enhancing lifestyle among socio-economic disadvantaged groups with the physical, food and social environments. It has particular strength in its combination of objective and self-reported measures using validated tools and the integration of state-of-the art tools like web-based Individual Map creation and Group Model Building to provide a robust assessment of the “action space”.

Short titleCivisano
Effective start/end date1/03/2028/02/22

Flemish discipline codes

  • Health, education and welfare economics


  • municipality environment
  • health enhancing lifestyle