Northeastern University Researcher Aims to Reduce Heart Disease Risk in Older Black Women

12-week intervention to promote long-lasting behavior change with unique model

Heart disease is considered to be the number one killer among women, and older adult black women are especially vulnerable. Northeastern University nursing professor Elizabeth Howard believes that a health promotion intervention is the key to changing health behaviors, reducing cardiovascular disease risk, and positively impacting health outcomes. She is conducting a research project with this particular population to test this hypothesis.

“The goal of this 12-week intervention is to assist older adult black women in an urban environment to adopt a program of regular physical activity,” said Howard, PhD, RN, CS-ACNP, Associate Professor of Nursing at Northeastern’s Bouve College of Health Sciences. “This is a population with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and hypertension and generally has limited access to appropriate healthcare. This lifestyle change should result in improved health status, physical performance, perceived health status and depression.”

Howard’s study group is part of a faith-based community; all 20 women (between the ages of 54 and 92) are members of the People’s Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

This study applies the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) Model, a unique, multidimensional approach, originally developed to promote health behavior change in HIV/AIDS patients. The three components: information; motivation; and behavior are fundamental determinants of risk reduction for several other health issues in various populations – including cardiovascular disease in older black women – and Howard’s study incorporates these three elements as part of her intervention.

As part of the information component, participants receive educational materials about the importance of exercise, the physiology of the cardiovascular system, and the influence of exercise on health status. The motivation portion will entail strategies to develop and maintain a pattern a regular physical activity. Under the behavioral skills component, the group receives weekly instructions, review and evaluation (through repeat demonstrations) of physical activities and exercises that cover the areas of strength, balance, flexibility and endurance.

Howard and her team hope that the post-intervention data, to be collected six months after completion of the intervention, will show increased physical performance and positive health outcomes.

The study is funded by the Northeastern University Provost’s ENHANCE Program. The program provides funds to support new ventures in research and scholarship by tenured faculty from all academic disciplines for preliminary work that will stimulate exemplary scholarship or will result in one or more proposals being submitted to extramural funding agencies.

For more information on Professor Howard’s intervention study and related research, please contact Renata Nyul at 617-373-7424 or at

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit