Assessing the real world effectiveness of the Healthy Eating Activity and Lifestyle (HEALTM) program
Hetherington, SA and Borodzicz, JA and Shing, CM, Assessing the real world effectiveness of the Healthy Eating Activity and Lifestyle (HEALTM) program, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 26, (2) pp. 93-98. ISSN 1036-1073 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Issue addressed Community-based lifestyle modification programs can be a valuable strategy to reduce risk factors for chronic disease. However, few government-funded programs report their results in the peer-reviewed literature. Our aim was to report on the effectiveness of the Healthy Eating Activity and Lifestyle (HEAL™) program, a program funded under the Australian government's Healthy Communities Initiative. Methods Participants (n = 2827) were recruited to the program from a broad range of backgrounds and each week completed an hour of group-based physical activity followed by an hour of lifestyle education for 8 weeks. Physical activity, sitting time, fruit and vegetable consumption, anthropometric measures, blood pressure and functional capacity data were gathered at baseline and post-program. Results HEAL™ participation resulted in significant acute improvements in frequency and volume of physical activity, reductions in daily sitting time and increases in fruit and vegetable consumption. HEAL™ participation led to reductions in total body mass, body mass index, waist circumference and blood pressure and to improvements in functional capacity (P < 0.001). Conclusions Based on these findings and the coordinated approach to program delivery, the HEAL™ program warrants consideration as a behaviour change strategy in primary health care networks, local government or community settings. So what? These findings should inform future policy development around implementation of lifestyle modification programs; they strengthen the case for support and promotion of lifestyle modification programs to improve public health, lessening the financial and personal burden of chronic conditions.