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Making and Maintaining Lifestyle Changes with the Support of a Lay Health Advisor: Longitudinal Qualitative Study of Health Trainer Services in Northern England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shelina Visram, Professor Martin White



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Objective: To explore and document the experiences of those receiving support from a lay health trainer, in order to inform the optimisation and evaluation of such interventions.Design: Longitudinal qualitative study with up to four serial interviews conducted over 12 months. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using the constant comparative approach associated with grounded theory.Participants: 13 health trainers, 5 managers and 26 clients.Setting: Three health trainer services targeting disadvantaged communities in northern England.Results: The final dataset comprised 116 interviews (88 with clients and 28 with staff). Discussions with health trainers and managers revealed a high degree of heterogeneity between the local services in terms of their primary aims and activities. However, these were found to converge over time. There was agreement that health trainer interventions are generally 'person-centred' in terms of being tailored to the needs of individual clients. This led to a range of self-reported outcomes, including behaviour changes, physical health improvements and increased social activity. Factors impacting on the maintenance of lifestyle changes included the cost and timing of health-promoting activities, ill-health or low mood. Participants perceived a need for ongoing access to low cost facilities to ensure that any lifestyle changes can be maintained in the longer term.Conclusions: Health trainers may be successful in terms of supporting people from socio-economically disadvantaged communities to make positive lifestyle changes, as well as achieving other health- related outcomes. This is not a 'one-size-fits-all' approach; commissioners and providers should select the intervention models that best meet the needs of their local populations. By delivering holistic interventions that address multiple lifestyle risks and incorporate relapse prevention strategies, health trainers could potentially have a significant impact on health inequalities. However, rigorous, formal outcome and economic evaluation of the range of health trainer delivery models is needed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Visram S, Clarke C, White M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS One

Year: 2014

Volume: 9

Issue: 5

Online publication date: 06/05/2014

Acceptance date: 19/03/2014

Date deposited: 28/08/2014

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094749


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