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About the Med-South Lifestyle Program

The Med-South Lifestyle Program (MSLP) is an evidence-based, behavior change intervention that translates a Mediterranean dietary pattern for the Southeastern U.S. population. This dietary pattern is highly concordant with those associated with reduced risk for many chronic diseases and all-cause mortality and is consistent with the latest guidelines from the American Diabetes Association and USDA Dietary Guidelines. The program also includes support for increased physical activity and has optional smoking cessation and medication adherence components. Review our one-pager for more information about the Med-South Lifestyle Program.

Health Improvements Associated with the Med-South Lifestyle Program

In a sample of 360 participants recruited by two Federally Qualified Health Centers (FHQCs) and two local health departments in Hertford, Edgecombe, and Nash Counties in North Carolina, the following statistically significant findings were shown*:

Dietary Intake

  • Daily fruit and vegetable intake increased by nearly 1 serving.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages were lowered by 0.4 servings daily.
  • Weekly intake of nuts increased by 0.4 units.

Physical Activity

  • Moderate-intensity physical activity increased by an average of 43 minutes per week.

Blood Pressure

  • There were more participants with controlled blood pressure at the end of the program.
  • Average decrease in systolic blood pressure was 4 mm Hg.
  • Average decrease in diastolic blood pressure was 2.2 mm Hg.

*These results are a combination from two published studies (see 1 and 2 in the research publications section below). All findings are statistically significant.

Program Design

The Med-South Lifestyle Program is delivered in four monthly, individual counseling sessions (45-60 min each) led by a health counselor. Each lesson includes: a brief dietary assessment, background information, and goal-setting guidance. The sessions incorporate behavioral approaches targeting motivation, self-efficacy, and self-regulation skills. Sessions also cover problem-solving and self-monitoring skills to address challenges to making diet and physical activity behavior changes.

Between sessions, there are brief phone calls (15 minutes) to review material and go over individual progress. After the four-month intervention phase, the six-month booster or maintenance phase includes two quarterly phone check-ins (15-30 minutes each).

Participants receive a manual, which covers both nutrition and physical activity guidance. The manual is written on a fifth to sixth grade reading level and available in English or Spanish.

Participants also receive a cookbook and a resource manual with information on community resources to help make behavior changes.

Program Materials

The Med-South Lifestyle Program participant manual covers information and recommendations about nutrition and physical activity. Accompanying the manual is a cookbook, which includes recipes from the Southern United States adapted to fit a Mediterranean dietary pattern.

The participant manual and cookbook are available in both English and Spanish.

To access the Med-South participant manual and cookbook, visit the Med-South Materials page.

History and Development of the Med-South Lifestyle Program

The Med-South Lifestyle Program is the culmination of a number of lifestyle interventions developed and tested by researchers at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. A previous version of the program was known as “A New Leaf … Choices for Healthy Living.” Researchers continue to update the program in accordance with the scientific literature on healthy eating, physical activity, and health outcomes.

Research Publications

  1. Samuel-Hodge CD, Gizlice Z, Allgood SD, Bunton AJ, Erskine A, Leeman J, Cykert S. A hybrid implementation-effectiveness study of a CHW-delivered cardiovascular disease risk reduction intervention among rural minority high-risk adults: the CHANGE Study. Am J Health Promot. 2022.
  2. Samuel-Hodge CD, Gizlice Z, Allgood SD, Bunton AJ, Erskine A, Leeman J, Cykert S. Strengthening community-clinical linkages to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in rural NC: Feasibility phase of the CHANGE Study. BMC Public Health. 2020;20:264.
  3. Embree GGR, Samuel-Hodge CD, Johnston LF, Garcia BA, Gizlice Z, Evenson KR, DeWalt DA, Ammerman AS, Keyserling TC. Successful long-term weight loss among participants with diabetes receiving an intervention promoting an adapted Mediterranean-style dietary pattern: the Heart Healthy Lenoir Project. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care 2017;5:e000339.
  4. Keyserling TC, Samuel-Hodge CD, Pitts SJ, Garcia BA, Johnston LF, Gizlice Z, Miller CL, Braxton DF, Evenson KR, Smith JC, Davis GB, Quenum EL, Elliott NTM, Gross MD, Donahue KE, Halladay JR, Ammerman AS. A community-based lifestyle and weight loss intervention promoting a Mediterranean-style diet pattern evaluated in the stroke belt of North Carolina: the Heart Healthy Lenoir Project. BMC Public Health. 2016;16:732.

News and Related Resources

How to enjoy the Mediterranean diet using foods near you
This blog post explains the health benefits and some of the main components of a Mediterranean dietary pattern. Also included are fan-favorite recipes from the Med-South Cookbook and public health lessons learned from research related to the Med-South Lifestyle Program. This piece is published by the UNC Gillings School of Public Health’s online MPH program.

CDC Renews HPDP’s center grant to study chronic disease prevention
This article explains the how HPDP’s current core research project is studying the most effective ways to scale up the Med-South Lifestyle Program. A five-year grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2019 supports the research.