Everyone knows they need to be more physically active but mustering the motivation to change, and sustaining change over time, is very hard. We know that changing behaviour is driven by a combination of:
- Motivation to want to change
- Having the capability - both physical and psychological to be able to change
- Having the physical and social opportunities to allow the change in behaviour to occur
Once we have this combination, behaviour change occurs. The challenge is how we get this combination for every individual, and keep it present, all of the time.
So how do you do this? Our approach in Calderdale is to focus on the many interactions people have with a variety of systems as we all go about our daily lives. How can we utilise every interaction as an opportunity to build an individual’s motivation, capability and opportunity, to be physically active? If we can get can get every system helping to do this, no matter how big or small, we believe, we can create conditions that enable an active population, no matter your personal circumstances.
When it comes to workforce in physical activity and sport, we tend to think solely about coaches and volunteers running clubs and sessions. Hugely important as they are, we have to think more laterally about who can play a part in encouraging, inspiring, and motivating people to take part in physical activity and sport.
We know that statistically speaking someone who is physically inactive is more likely to be engaging with the health and social care system. This is coupled with the fact that health and social care professionals work from a place of trust - messages coming from them can be powerful catalysts for change. Our approach has been to prioritise the health and social care system as a major work stream within our Active Strategy. Our aim is to embed physical activity, so a focus on physical activity is present in as many interactions with individuals within this system as possible. We need to create a workforce that is more diverse than just coaches and volunteers.
Through engaging with various parts of the health and social care system, it emerged that for front line health and social care professionals to embed conversations about being active into their core routine, there was a need for more training. The focus of the training needed to be on how we enable staff to have meaningful conversations about physical activity with patients, rather than just reiterating the need to be active. How could we create a more empathetic, person centred approach to having conversations; conversations that are more likely lead to an individual wanting to, and feeling like they can become active.
This led us to providing motivational interviewing training delivered by Jeff Breckon from Sheffield Hallam University. The training was delivered to 40 health and social care professionals, from practice nurses, to social prescribing link workers and care workers. Rather than a short 3 hour workshop we went for two days of training. The more in depth training gave health and social care professionals time to get fully immersed in the concept of motivational interviewing, a concept that on the surface sounds straight forward but is difficult to master. The training was very practical and interactive, giving staff the opportunity to practice and hone their skills as they were learning. Skills that involved a lot of listening rather than talking, something many reflected they weren’t accustomed to. The feedback from the staff after the two days was hugely positive, with everyone not only saying they had learned a great deal but saying how they believed it would change how they now approach conversations with patients and clients in their day to day work.
Over the coming months we will be following up with staff who attended the training to see if, and hopefully how, the training has led to changes in their working practices and how they are now creating conditions that build an individuals motivation, capability and opportunity to be physically active.