Preventing falls, promoting health, engaging community: Evaluation report of the Greater Southern Area Health Service Physical Activity Leaders Network Tai Chi Program

Sally Hall Dykgraaf, Christine Phillips, Lorraine Dubois, Niccola Follett, Nugraheni Pancaningtyas

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    This evaluation found that the Physical Activity Leader Network was an efficient and well-respected way of providing falls prevention to older adults in the former Greater Southern Area Health Service footprint, including remote and relatively underserved populations. The decision to utilise community volunteers has been critical to success for two reasons: it has resulted in a significantly lower unit cost than in comparable Tai Chi programs; and it has enabled the program to become embedded in the community, contributing to its growing sustainability and developing social capital. For a program of this nature to remain successful, it requires ongoing administrative support, and training and support for volunteer leaders. Community uptake of this program is relatively high at 1.7% of the target population, and includes many people who are in frail health or at risk of falls. This evaluation has established a compelling body of qualitative evidence that participants acquire skills which improve balance, and make them less prone to falling, as well as experiencing a range of other benefits which improve quality of life for community dwelling elders. These include impacts on social isolation, confidence and anxiety Elements that appear to be associated with successful programs are: careful selection and support of leaders, particularly in the early stages of the program; advertising the range of benefits beyond arthritis through word of mouth; construction of groups that are welcoming of newcomers and include both genders; active identification and support of new leaders from within existing communities (especially from within classes); and addition of social networking activities to classes. To optimise the success and value of the program and retain gains already made, the Area Health Service, through the Health Development Falls Team, should: • Actively acknowledge and appreciate the work and community contribution of leaders through meaningful public recognition and continued support for networking activities among leaders. • Develop a system for aligning organisational priorities and minimising internally generated resource waste and inefficiency, particularly when staff members have trained as TCA leaders, and provide staff with the flexibility to undertake leadership responsibilities as part of their work program * Continue to support ongoing training and administrative support for leaders, accepting that there is inbuilt attrition of leaders, and skilled volunteer programs need skilled and supportive administration. These costs should be regarded as investments in a very large program of volunteer engagement, broad ranging health outcomes and community development. • Continue to support networking activities for leaders, and clarify with leaders the reciprocal obligations which exist. • Collaborate with senior leaders to ensure that they are able to pass on their skills to novice leaders. • Investigate further modes of recruitment with health care professionals and community, including changing the title of the program from "Tai Chi for Arthritis", and ensuring high levels of program awareness among community based health & welfare agencies. • Actively encourage men to become leaders to encourage more male participants to attend. Targeted promotion (for example, to GPs or barbers) may also be useful. • Consider seeking formal feedback from leaders and participants who discontinue involvement. • Continue to review policies ensuring the safety of participants, against the needs of those for whom the classes would be most beneficial. • Consider mechanisms to assist participants achieve several hours of participation each week
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyNSW Institute of Rural Clinical Services and Teaching
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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