The Devon Active Villages Evaluation (DAVE) Trial of a Community-level Physical Activity Intervention in Rural South-West England: A Stepped Wedge Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial
Solomon, Emma Louise
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Background: Although physical inactivity has been linked with numerous chronic health conditions and overall mortality, the majority of English adults report insufficient physical activity. To increase population physical activity levels, researchers have called for more community-level interventions. To evaluate these complex public health interventions, innovative study designs are required. The aim of this thesis was to evaluate whether a community-level physical activity intervention—‘Devon Active Villages’—increased the activity levels of rural communities. Methods: The Devon Active Villages intervention provided villages with 12 weeks of physical activity opportunities for all age groups. Community engagement helped tailor activity programmes for each village; communities were then supported for a further 12 months. 128 rural villages from south-west England were randomised to receive the intervention in one of four time periods, as part of a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial. Data collection consisted of a postal survey of a random sample of adults (≥18 years), at baseline, and after each of the four intervention periods. The primary outcome of interest was the proportion of adults who reported sufficient physical activity to meet the current guidelines (≥150mins of moderate-and-vigorous, or ≥75mins of vigorous-intensity activity per week). The number of minutes spent in moderate-and-vigorous activity per week was analysed as a secondary outcome. Using data from all five periods, a comparison of study outcomes between intervention and control arms was performed, allowing for time period (as a fixed effect), and the random effect induced by correlation of outcomes (clustering) within villages. Additionally, the baseline data were analysed separately using logistic and linear regression models to examine the correlates of physical activity behaviour in rural adults. Results: Baseline study: 2415 adults completed the postal survey (response rate 37.7%). The following factors both increased the odds of meeting the recommended activity guidelines and were associated with more leisure-time physical activity: being male, in good health, greater commitment to being more active, favourable activity social norms, greater physical activity habit, and recent use of recreational facilities. In addition, there was evidence that younger age, lower body mass index, having a physical occupation, dog ownership, inconvenience of public transport, and using recreational facilities outside the local village were associated with greater reported leisure-time physical activity. Main study: 10,412 adults (4693 intervention, 5719 control) completed the postal survey (response rate 32.2%). The intervention did not increase the odds of adults meeting the physical activity guideline, although there was weak evidence of an increase in the minutes of moderate-and-vigorous-intensity activity per week. The ineffectiveness of the intervention may have been due to its low penetration—only 16% of intervention participants reported being aware of the intervention, and just 4% reported participating in intervention events. Conclusions: Baseline study: This study highlights potentially important correlates of physical activity that could be the focus of interventions targeting rural populations, and demonstrates the need to examine rural adults separately from their urban counterparts. Main study: A community-level physical activity intervention providing tailored physical activity opportunities to rural villages did not improve physical activity levels in adults. Greater penetration of such interventions needs to be achieved for them to have any chance of increasing the prevalence of physical activity at the community level.
Economic and Social Research Council
PhD in Sport and Health Sciences