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800. Long-term effectiveness of the New Zealand Green Prescription primary health care exercise initiative

Research Article
M.J. Hamlin, E. Yule, C.A. Elliot, L. Stoner, Y. Kathiravel
October 2016

hereCommentary by Rona Macniven, GlobalPANet Executive, The University of Sydney, Australia

New Zealand’s Green Prescription program has gained international recognition and has been delivered for many years, in response to low rates of physical activity. It involves the physical activity needs assessment of at-risk patients by a General Practitioner or nurse who recommends an activity prescription. Patients are referred to the regional sports trust who act as facilitators for behaviour change by connecting the patient to activities and providing support and motivation over a 3-month period. Previous studies have demonstrated increases in physical activity over the short term. This study examined the longer term effectiveness.

Participants who had received their prescription at least 2-3 years ago were contacted to complete a telephone survey. They were classified as either having completed the programme (adherence, n = 91) or having not completed the programme (non-adherence, n = 56). They were asked physical activity questions from the New Zealand Ministry of Health's latest health survey which were based on the International Physical Activity Questionnaire Short Form (IPAQ-SF). 

The adherers reported an additional 64 minutes (95% CI = 16-110) of total physical activity per week compared to the non-adherers. Forty-two percent of adherers reported having increased their physical activity levels after receiving the prescription compared to only 29% of the non-adherers. The adherence group were also less likely to be sedentary (odds ratio 0.7, 95% CI = 0.5-0.9) and more likely to achieve the physical activity recommendations of at least 150 min of physical activity per week (OR = 1.1, 95% CI 1.0-1.3). Overall, male respondents were more active than female respondents (48% vs. 27% reaching recommendations). 

These findings show a long-term benefit of the Green Prescription program beyond the initial three month referral, however dropout rates appear high. Findings way to better support participants to complete the program is required to increase its impact. Nonetheless, it provides an example of an effective way to increase physical activity in the primary care and community setting.   

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