The HSE HaPAI Award

‘Move 4 Life’: An evaluation of a peer mentoring intervention designed to cascade and consequently up-scale existing programmes to help inactive 50+ become more active.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers, practitioners and policy makers are undertaking research to increase population levels of physical activity in Ireland. The team, being led by Professor Catherine Woods from the University of Limerick, brings together expertise from sport and exercise science, health, psychology, implementation science and the community. The University of Limerick, the National University of Ireland Galway, Limerick and Clare Local Sports Partnerships, Age and Opportunity, Limerick City and County Council, Healthy Limerick and the Health Services Executive are all combining forces to tackle this complex challenge. Our vision is that adults 50+ will live a more active and healthy lifestyle as a result of being part of Move 4 Life (M4L).

The national physical activity guidelines describe appropriate levels of health enhancing physical activity (PA) for the Irish population. All Adults should be active for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity on 5 days a week, or 150 minutes a week with a focus on aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening and balance. Yet few meet these PAGL, including at least 63% and 57% of individuals in Counties Limerick and Clare respectively. Being active has significant benefits for health and wellbeing: There is significant evidence that meeting PAGL promotes wellbeing, physical and mental health, prevents disease, improves quality of life and has economic, social and cultural benefits. Being inactive has significant consequences.

Staff shortages can limit the delivery of health promotion efforts, thus peer-delivered interventions could have considerable positive impact in expanding the reach of such efforts. The purpose of M4L is to test if broadening the reach of the professional (in this research programme, the Local Sports Partnership tutor) to the participants (inactive 50+) via peer mentor support (M4L programme) is feasible and has any potential for impact. We think it will work by empowering non-professional members of a community, using a ‘train the trainer model’, to teach behavioural skills and provide informational and social support to their peers.

Our first objective is to conduct key informant interviews with participants, staff and volunteers from best practice physical activity programmes for the 50+. This information will help us to understand effective programme design, recruitment, retention from their perspective; with particular emphasis on strategies for programme sustainability and implementation nationally. Objective two is to produce and pre-test the M4L intervention with stakeholders. Once complete, we will test the M4L intervention. Our primary outcome is minutes of physical activity and secondary outcomes include reduction in sedentary behaviour, cost effectiveness and behaviour change strategy use. For this trial, 8 community sport and physical activity HUBS across Clare (n=4) and Limerick (n=4) will be recruited, three HUBS will receive the M4L intervention, three will run their programmes as normal and two will act as true case control groups and take part in assessments only. Over five hundred participants will complete a battery of physical tests, wear a device to monitor their physical activity levels objectively and complete questionnaires at baseline (T0), at 3 (T1) and 6 (T2) months. Participants will also be interviewed at the end of the programme to give their thoughts on what worked well and what could be improved further. Finally, we intend to fully disseminate our research results, several strategies including publication of the final report, media reports and interviews and a capacity building workshop at the end of the project are all part of our programme of work.