The challenge and impact of engaging hard-to-reach populations in regular physical activity and health behaviours: an examination of an English Premier League ‘Football in the Community’ men's health programme
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AbstractTo investigate the challenges that men from hard-to-reach (HTR) populations encounter when attempting to commit to regular participation in physical activity and health behaviours, and to explore the psychological and social effects of participation in a twelve week football-led health improvement intervention. A twelve week football specific physical activity intervention targeting men from HTR populations was delivered by Everton Football Clubs' Football in the Community (FitC) scheme as part of a national programme of men's health delivered in/by English Premier League (EPL) football clubs. Men living in homeless shelters and/or recovering from substance misuse were recruited over a period of three months. The programme consisted of a two hour football session, twice weekly, alongside the dissemination of healthy living messages. Football sessions were conducted by a qualified FitC coach. This research was conducted during a twelve week period of immersed practitioner-research. Ethnographic and observational methodologies were adopted. Psychosocial issues were discussed with participants through informal client–researcher interactions and data were logged via field notes. Records of attendance were logged. Participants who failed to attend a session were contacted and their reason(s) for non-attendance were recorded. Data were analysed using deductive and inductive reasoning. Despite the apparent ambition of the participants to regularly participate in the FitC programme, adherence to the programme was poor. Economic, environmental and social barriers to engagement in the programme were apparent. Engagement in the programme resulted in positive psychosocial developments; the development of structure, social interaction and social capital. Community based football-led health improvement programmes endorsed by professional football clubs appear well positioned to connect with, and attract, men from HTR populations. The evidence suggests that such programmes can improve psychosocial health amongst these populations. However, a bottom-up programme design and management strategy is required in order to reduce the challenges facing HTR participants when attempting to regularly engage in physical activity and health behaviours.
CitationCurran, K., Drust, B., Murphy, R., Pringle, A. and Richardson, D., (2016). 'The challenge and impact of engaging hard-to-reach populations in regular physical activity and health behaviours: an examination of an English Premier League ‘Football in the Community’men's health programme'. Public Health, 135, pp. 14-22.