La Trobe Rural Health School is the research partner for a Bendigo Health intervention that is improving lives for rural patients.
The intervention promotes behaviour change by referring patients attending routine hospital appointments to a 12-week telehealth physical activity coaching program.
Dr Stephen Barrett, research lead at Bendigo Health and Adjunct Research Fellow with La Trobe Rural Health School, said research on the efficacy of the program revealed significant health benefits for people suffering chronic conditions or long term-ill health.
“We saw a reduction in BMI, waist circumference, weight and type 2 diabetes risk,” Dr Barrett said.
“People also improved their self-efficacy, confidence to be active and quality of life.”
The research found that patients in the program completed an average of 22 minutes physical activity per day. To put this into perspective, an additional 15 minutes of physical activity is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality of 4%, regardless of age.
Patients also found referrals from their surgeon to be a powerful catalyst for behaviour change.
“Maybe it’s my age but there is still a sort of an aura around the surgeon. They hold a bit of power and influence. So when they tell you to do something, you are probably more likely to do it,” Female patient, 48.
An economic evaluation found the program was low-cost, delivering savings to both individuals and the health system.
The program is now embedded in routine clinical care at Bendigo Health and is being scaled up across Loddon Mallee, a region with a higher rate of chronic disease than the state average.
Dr Barrett said the program has strong potential in shaping other health promotion efforts.
“Our research can also be applied to other areas, like changing smoking or dietary behaviours.”
“It’s all about using the hospital visit to drive change and make every consultation count.”
To learn more, watch a short video about the project and its impact.
Photo courtesy of Bendigo Health.