Movement as Medicine

Designing a diabetes learning pathway for GPs and their patients

The brief

The Movement as Medicine project is being developed through a partnership between movement and metabolism specialists and health psychologists from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, The Centre for Design Research (CfDR) at Northumbria University’s School of Design, and County Durham Primary Care Trust. Our aim is to take new scientific data on the benefits of physical activity for people with type 2 diabetes, and translate it into an engaging learning pathway that helps primary care teams deliver effective lifestyle interventions leading to meaningful behaviour change in a typically older and sedentary population.

The process

The first goal of this project is to convince GPs and practice nurses that 45 minutes of daily activity is a realistic and effective alternative to medication for type 2 diabetes patients. The CfDR interactive media design team visited GPs in their practices in order to really understand the challenges of their working environments. These visits significantly changed our approach, as we realised that learning material for GPs would have to be broken into short digestible chunks that could be tackled over a twenty minute lunch break, allowing healthcare practitioners to ‘dip in and out’ as their schedules allowed. Because of this, we chose to develop a series of accredited online learning modules that reinforce key messages through playful and engaging interactive exercises full of easily transferable real-world patient context.

The second goal of the project was to develop learning material for GPs to use in helping patients make lifestyle changes. We met with a range of diabetes patients, developing new worksheet-based tools to help us record individual’s ‘diabetes stories’ and identify the truly influential people in their diabetes care. This work revealed the fact that many patients feel their GPs are not particularly knowledgeable about diabetes, and are more likely to go to patient-led organisations such as Diabetes UK, or their practice nurse. This insight led us to broaden our primary care audience to include the nursing staff who actually deliver a lot of ongoing diabetes care and management.

Our research also identified the fact that many older people will not have their own computer, and are more likely to access internet information through younger family members. However older people are very likely to have DVD players in their home, and so we chose to develop DVD-based material for patients in the form of original short films. Along with their DVD, patients will receive a pack of taskcards designed to lead them through the stages of thinking about being active, to making a plan and developing long-term strategies to keep active in the future.

The outcome…

We are currently authoring the GP learning modules and patient intervention materials, with a view to delivering Movement as Medicine as part of a clinical trial with selected GP practices in the County Durham area in early 2011.

Visit the Movement as Medicine and Move Lab websites for the latest news on the development and impending launch of Movement as Medicine.