Health Academies Program and the promotion of physical activity in the city: the experience of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais state, Brazil

Abstract The objectives of this study were to describe the history and evaluation methodology of the Brazilian Health Academy Program (PAS) in Belo Horizonte, MG and discuss it as an experience of health promotion and equity. Data from 4,048 non-users (2008-09) and 402 users (2014-15) were analyzed from two cross-sectional surveys. Socio-demographic profile and level of physical activity were described for both groups. Social interaction, satisfaction with life, quality of life, and social organization in the neighborhood were compared between < 3 and ≥ 3 monthly minimum wages income and conducted only for women aged 40 years and older . Chi-square test of Person was performed (p ≤ 0.05). Prevalence of leisure-time physical activity among non-users was of 30.2% and users of 53.7%. Better perception of quality of life, positive satisfaction with life, greater social interactions and participation in the neighborhood were observed among women with higher income compared to their counterparts (p < 0.001). In turn, for all evaluated constructs, users reported better perception of the lower income group. The PAS has opportunized physical activity to the vulnerable population and seems to act on other outcomes besides the lifestyle.