Understanding the challenges and impact of training on referral of postnatal women to a community physical activity programme by health professionals: a qualitative study using the COM-B model

Linda Allin*, Catherine Haighton, Sonia Dalkin, Julia Das, Georgia Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective
To understand the value of training for health professionals for improving their ability to effectively refer postnatal women to a targeted community physical activity programme. The study also sought to understand challenges to effective referral of postnatal women from deprived areas.

Design, setting and participants
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in January-February 2020 with early years practitioners (n = 4), health visitors (n = 1) and community midwives (n = 2) who had participated in a training workshop implemented as part of a targeted community physical activity referral programme for postnatal women from deprived areas in the North East of England. Two follow up interviews were also conducted with one midwife and one early years practitioner during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data were analysed thematically and the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation, Behaviour (COM-B) model was employed to facilitate identification of the impact of training and the challenges in referral from the health professionals’ perspective.

Findings
The training increased capability to refer by improving knowledge and confidence of health professionals in being able to give appropriate guidance to postnatal women about physical activity without having to refer to other professionals. Health professionals reported adequate opportunities to engage with postnatal women, were motivated to refer and perceived this to be part of their role. The timing and method of message delivery were key contexts for perceived successful referral, particularly for midwives who wanted to ensure the messaging began in the antenatal period. Low staffing levels, limited interprofessional collaboration and finding strategies to engage women from deprived areas were key challenges to effective delivery of physical activity messages. These challenges were exacerbated during Covid-19, with increased mental health issues amongst postnatal women.

Key conclusions and implications for practice
Training health professionals for physical activity messaging can be a useful way to increase capability, opportunity, and motivation to refer to physical activity interventions for postnatal women in deprived areas to potentially increase physical wellbeing and reduce postnatal depression. The COM-B is a relevant framework to underpin training. A clearly identified referral pathway and staffing issues need to be addressed to improve referrals by health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103516
Number of pages7
JournalMidwifery
Volume116
Early online date17 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2022

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