Behaviour change research at UH has primarily focused on the field of physical activity to produce translational research knowledge with local and national partners in public health promotion. The aim of this body of work is to produce trans-disciplinary research to embed behavioural science into public health efforts to reduce the burden of unhealthy behaviours in the most disadvantaged communities. Examples of the type of research conducted are given below:
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials of physical activity and sedentary behaviour interventions for inactive adults. The findings showed that changes in physical activity can be achieved through intervention up to a year after completion and highlighted a number of behaviour change techniques (BCT) that were associated with effectiveness (e.g. Action planning, Instruction on how to perform the behaviour, Prompts/cues, Self-reward). Additional reviews have looked at the most effective BCTs in physical activity interventions for people with dementia and for adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. Identifying effective BCTs helps design effective interventions in the future.
Previous research has suggested that theory has been used inconsistently, and has rarely been applied to the design, implementation, and evaluation of physical activity interventions. The COM-B model of behaviour suggests that behaviour results from an individual having sufficient Capability, Opportunity, and Motivation. We analysed the content and predictive validity of the COM-B for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The findings suggested that Capability (habits, action planning, and self-monitoring) and Motivation (intention, self-efficacy, and exercise self-identity) are key in performing regular MVPA.
Public health interventions
The Active Herts programme is a community physical activity programme for inactive adults, with additional cardiovascular disease risk factors and/or mental health issues. Active Herts implements the best BCTs in the intervention materials/delivery and evaluates key drivers of MVPA from the COM-B as secondary outcomes. In two areas programme users are receiving a BCT booklet, regular consultations, a booster phone call, motivational text messages, and signposting to 12 weeks of exercise classes. In another two areas programme users are also receiving 12 weeks of free tailored exercise classes, with optional exercise ‘buddies’ available. An outcome evaluation is assessing changes in physical activity as the primary outcome, and sporting participation, sitting, wellbeing, psychological capability, and reflective motivation as secondary outcomes. A process evaluation is exploring the views of programme users, programme providers, and commissioners about what has worked best and why.
We also provide robust evaluation for key partners such as the charity HENRY, who are testing a novel volunteer-led delivery of a programme to improve the behaviour and knowledge of parents and young children around nutrition and physical activity.