Implementing a community-based physical activity intervention: The importance of staff knowledge and attitudes


To promote widespread reach of health programs, initiatives must be implemented directly to the target population in need. The Healthy Together (HT) program is a community-based strategy designed to foster positive attitudes, cognitions and behaviour towards physical activity (PA) in children and their families at high risk of obesity. HT was designed to be implemented by existing community staff members in high needs areas. Staff familiarity and self-efficacy with the specific topic area is associated with the success of community-based programs. The purpose of this research was to examine staff members' thoughts and feelings towards PA. A mixed methods approach was utilized, including 1) observations conducted at staff training, 2) pre program open-ended qualitative questions completed by staff members, and 3) a focus group teleconference conducted with staff following completion of the program. Fifteen staff members facilitated HT at 5 implementation sites and each reported having no experience facilitating a PA program. This was confirmed through observations at training. Following completion of the program, the majority of staff expressed that they rarely engaged in PA, and struggled to engage participants in PA in general. Staff agreed that they would have benefited from more program specific training in order to successfully implement the HT program. These findings highlight the importance of extensive training on topic content prior to dissemination of a program within a community setting. Staff must see value in the program and be aware of their position as a role model and content expert within the program.