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Physio professor Suzanne McDonough shines spotlight on need for more physical activity

Power Diary 3rd May 2022
Power Diary 3rd May 2022

Physiotherapist Suzanne McDonough is aiming to improve budding doctors’ knowledge about the role that physical activity can play in improving the health of people living in Ireland.

Professor McDonough, who is head of the school of physiotherapy at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin, is one of four speakers lined up to contribute to a webinar that is scheduled for 25 May. Titled National Seminar Series: Enhancing teaching and learning of physical activity in Irish medical curricula, the event is due to start at 12.30pm.

The event is being held amid concern that roughly one adult in two in Ireland (about two million adults or 54 per cent of the adult population) is failing to meet the country's National Physical Activity Guidelines, placing them at greater risk of non-communicable disease, disability and premature death.

Though doctors can play an important role in supporting people to be more active by evaluating their activity levels and providing advice, many admit they have insufficient knowledge, skills and confidence to promote physical activity to patients.

People signing up for the event are will be given opportunities to hear practical examples and share experiences of integrating physical activity teaching into undergraduate healthcare curriculum. Other speakers include Ann Gates, honorary associate professor at the University of Nottingham and honorary visiting professor at Plymouth Marjon University, and Orla McGowan, head of training and programme design at the Making Every Contact Count programme at Ireland’s Health and Safety Executive.

To find out more about the event, visit: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_YhvkxzLqQR-BL985Ir7kHw

Professor McDonough, who graduated in physiotherapy at University College Dublin in 1989, is also a visiting professor at the University of Southampton and an honorary professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Digital Health paper

Professor McDonough recently took part in a study that examined the characteristics of digital tools used to promote physical activity in people with long-term health conditions (LTCs). The findings, published last month in Digital Health, showed that digital tools have become increasingly popular in the last decade. It is, however, important to establish whether they are better than traditional care for managing certain heath issues. The study also focused on understanding people’s level of ability to use these tools.

We wanted to know if the tools were designed to manage multiple conditions that a person has, what type of people were included in the studies, and exactly how the digital tool was delivered to people [Suzanne McDonough]

Describing the approach in an article appearing on the RCSI's website, Professor McDonough said: 'We carried out a very broad search of all literature published over a decade, from 2009 to 2019, to find studies that looked at the use of digital tools to help people with one or more LTCs to remain physically active.

'We wanted to know if the tools were designed to manage multiple conditions that a person has, what type of people were included in the studies, and exactly how the digital tool was delivered to people. A strength of our review was that we scoped across 18 different LTCs and, unlike previous reviews, we identified a wealth of studies.'

The most common digital tools were websites, which were often linked to a wearable device such as Fitbit or Apple Watch. In most cases, a healthcare professional helped people to use the digital tool to set goals and to monitor their physical activity.

'The scoping review methods we used in this review don’t enable us to say at this point whether the digital tools we identified are better than traditional care, but it was notable that the studies in the review are not representative of the largest proportion of people with LTCs – older adults and those with multiple health conditions. It is also unclear what people’s experiences are of using digital tools, which is really important to understand for long-term engagement,' Professor McDonough said.

Professor McDonough added: 'Given it is likely that there is overlap in approaches across conditions, it is important to draw this evidence together to inform future directions in this important area for health. We currently have a review underway to find out the effectiveness of these digital tools.'

The study was a collaboration between researchers in Ireland and the UK and was funded by RCSI and the National Institute for Health Research Wessex Applied Research Collaboration.

To read the full version of the article on the RCSI website, visit: https://www.rcsi.com/dublin/news-and-events/news/news-article/2022/04/rcsi-study-looks-at-digital-tools-used-to-promote-physical-activity-in-people-with-health-conditions

Power Diary 3rd May 2022
Power Diary 3rd May 2022
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