Improving attitudes to exercise
Bendigo Health aims to improve the health of the community it serves with a preventive health program that encourages people with or at risk of chronic disease to exercise more.
However if they just encourage exercise they find that 50% of participants lapse back into inactivity when the intervention is over.
As Steve says:
People living in rural areas are less likely to do enough exercise for health benefits, placing them at risk of preventable chronic diseases.
Clearly, the team needed to engage not only the muscles but also the mind. They asked Steve to look at ways to encourage a positive mindset to exercise.
Healthy 4 U
In 2018 Bendigo Health ran the Healthy 4 U trial, where people visiting their hospital clinics signed up with preventative health specialists to improve their exercise routines.
Rather than “prescribing” exercise plans for patients to follow, the team used behaviour change techniques to allow the participants to develop a positive attitude towards exercise, with eight face-to-face meetings with specialists over six months.
“Why do you want to change and what do you want to do?”
The Health 4 U trial was so successful that in 2019 Bendigo Health embarked on Healthy 4U-2, to find out if the intervention could benefit a wider range of participants at a lower cost. They:
- recruited doctors to spread the message to their patients rather than relying on patients to make the initial contact themselves.
- used a low-cost, low-contact method by reducing the number of sessions to five, delivered over the phone, and
- directed participants towards community services like walking groups and strength training groups rather than setting up additional resources in the hospital.
Healthy 4 U 2
The good news is that the intervention was just as successful – participants increased their amount of daily activity, lost weight, and reported improved quality of life (when compared to a control group).
This shows that low-contact and low-cost interventions can produce lasting change – and the use of phone support is particularly important in the COVID-19 world.
We look forward to hearing more success stories with this initiative!
Stephen Barrett is a PhD candidate in the La Trobe Rural Health School, investigating the role of preventive health interventions in non-admitted secondary hospital care. Stephen is undertaking his PhD part-time, and works full time in the Health Promotion team at Bendigo Health. Stephen completed his physiotherapy undergrad at University College Dublin, and completed a Masters in Public Health at Melbourne University. His favorite sport is golf and you can follow him on Twitter: @barrettstephen1