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BMC Health Serv Res. 2017 Feb 11;17(1):130. doi: 10.1186/s12913-017-2040-7.

An education programme influencing health professionals to recommend exercise to their type 2 diabetes patients - understanding the processes: a case study from Oxfordshire, UK.

Author information

  • 1Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford, OX3 7LF, UK.
  • 2Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Windmill Road, Oxford, OX3 7HE, UK.
  • 3Generation Games, AgeUK Oxfordshire, West St Helen Street, Abingdon, OX14 5BT, UK.
  • 4Oxfordshire Community Diabetes Service, Victoria House Surgery, 119 Buckingham Road, Bicester, OX26 3EU, UK.
  • 5Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford, OX3 7LF, UK.



Increasing levels of physical activity decreases the risk of premature mortality associated with chronic diseases e.g., coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke. Despite this, most adults in England do not meet physical activity guidelines. Physical activity advice and signposting offered to at-risk patients by primary care providers is recommended. However, exercise medicine education is sparse, leading to poor practitioner knowledge of the risk reduction evidence and strategies to implement effective patient behaviour change. The 'Generation Games' intervention seeks physical activity increase in the 50+ population of Oxfordshire. It offers a Health Professional Education Programme (HPEP) providing exercise medicine education, and promotion of Generation Games to which health professionals can signpost patients. There is a poor evidence base concerning how such education translates into patient exercise behaviour change.


The research aimed to create more understanding of how an education programme can influence health professionals to recommend Generation Games to and increase exercise behaviour in type 2 diabetes patients. A case study method facilitated examination of the routines and cultures studied - the experience of Diabetes nurses was used as an example of best practice engagement with the HPEP. Observation, interviews and documentation were employed to triangulate data. Data analysis refined and developed themes within key theoretical frameworks.


Firstly, there is a lack of knowledge about physical activity risk reduction benefits and a belief that efforts to motivate patients to increase their physical activity are ineffective, thus creating barriers to engagement with the HPEP. Secondly, practice nurses tasked with delivering lifestyle advice to diabetes patients - themselves suffering a motivational interviewing skill deficit - find ingrained physical activity behaviours extremely challenging, and therefore highly value the HPEP for providing helpful tools. Thirdly, patients who hear of Generation Games from a health professional may have mismatched expectations of how their exercise behaviour can change.


Exercise medicine education has the potential to improve patient care and services. Before initiatives like the HPEP can succeed, primary care practice requires a more supportive exercise medicine culture. Also necessary is adequate resourcing of patient-centred behaviour change advice, training, encouragement and monitoring services.


Behaviour change; Exercise; Health professional; Medical education; Type 2 diabetes

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