Britt and the team at Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS) did not allow a recent COVID-19 lockdown in Albury–Wodonga to halt participants’ progress in a group program designed to guide clients living with a chronic disease (diabetes) towards better health. They switched the program to a telehealth version without missing a step.
‘Walkin About’ is a 10-week healthy lifestyle program developed by Aboriginal Health Workers, that uses group and peer learning to encourage and support people living with diabetes to increase their level of physical activity and embrace healthy eating.
The 10-week program was into its fourth week when Albury went into lockdown and the Aboriginal Health Promotion Worker at AWAHS, Britt Wright, had to move quickly to keep the program running for her clients. Not everyone had access to the internet, so exercise equipment, exercise sheets and recipes were delivered by AWAHS transport drivers through contactless delivery. Those with internet access were sent a Zoom link for ongoing group activities. These activities included ‘cook ups’ run by Susie Summons, a dietician at AWAHS; and exercise sessions run by Charlee Webb, an exercise physiologist from Flex Out Physiotherapy in Albury. Those that couldn’t access the internet remained engaged with Britt and texted her photos of their meals.
Researchers at Three Rivers Department of Rural Health and the School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences at Charles Sturt University, have conducted interviews with participants and facilitators as part of their evaluation of the program for AWAHS. Initial analysis has shown that every participant adapted and continued their ‘Walkin About’ journey. No-one dropped out during the lockdown. Participants without access to the internet used the change in context as a challenge to motivate themselves to continue their journey and looked forward to catching up with the ‘Walkin About’ team post-lockdown. Those with internet access found Zoom exercise sessions and ‘cook ups’ gave their families opportunities to join in, which has led to some families taking up ‘movement breaks’ as a welcome pause to home schooling and noticing an increased enthusiasm for cooking from their families.
We’d like to congratulate the ‘Walkin About’ staff and participants on completing the program in extremely challenging circumstances. We look forward to sharing more insights into the program and the possible benefits that hybrid programs might provide to participants in the future.