How can we improve the communication of the national CMO physical activity guidelines?

The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) are due to publish new guidelines on physical activity in 2019. They will recommend how much physical activity we should do and what types of physical activity most benefit our health. The new guidelines will be based on a comprehensive review of the latest research.

In the past, physical activity guidelines have been tricky to understand and difficult to follow. Through this project, the CLAHRC West team, alongside collaborators Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), will make the physical activity guidelines more meaningful and useful for members of the public.

We are planning three pieces of work as part of this project. In the first, we will work with three or four community groups in the Knowle West area of Bristol. We will run several workshops for these groups to understand what physical activity means to them, and importantly, to understand how best to communicate physical activity messages to their community.

Some people in these groups will also see themselves as being physically active, despite the modern world being designed in a way that encourages inactivity. Our second piece of work will use an approach called ‘creative non-fiction’ (CNF) to create several emotive, first person case studies that illustrate how people have managed to be active. The CNF case studies will be co-produced with people who attended the workshops. KWMC will then work with the public contributors to create short films based upon each CNF case study.

The final piece of work will be to create a toolkit for communications and healthcare professionals that provides advice and guidance on how to tailor physical activity messages to various community groups. The team will work with the end users to ensure that the toolkit is as useful as possible. This toolkit will include information about the language people prefer and the best ways to share physical activity messages, for example via videos, pictures, or media campaigns.

Underpinning this project is KWMCs six-phased framework to community engagement – the “Bristol Approach”. The framework makes sure that the public are involved in the design, testing and evaluation of socially-beneficial products, such as the physical activity guidelines. The Bristol Approach has been used on issues surrounding food waste and damp in homes. Our work will help to strengthen the usefulness of the Bristol Approach by adopting it in a new field of research.

We have gained funding from the University of Bristol’s Brigstow Institute to help realise this project.

Project aims

We have three main aims for this project:

  • To make the physical activity guidelines more meaningful for different groups of people
  • To understand how some people manage to be active in our modern world, which encourages inactivity
  • To create a toolkit for professionals to help them communicate the physical activity guidelines

Anticipated impacts

With the support of the community groups, this work should help ensure that more people aware of physical activity and the guidelines, as well as improving the communication of the guidelines. We know that there are endless benefits of physical activity, both for individuals and society, and so it is essential that any attempt to encourage people to be physically active is communicated in the most effective way.

Image credit: World Obesity Federation

Lead collaborators

CLAHRC West staff

Michelle Farr

Dr Michelle Farr

Sabi Redwood

Dr Sabi Redwood

Zoe Trinder-Widdess

Zoe Trinder-Widdess

  • Communications Manager
  • Management and administration
Rosie Davies

Rosie Davies

  • CLAHRC West Research Fellow (Patient and Public Involvement)
Andrew Gibson

Andrew Gibson

  • Co-Academic Lead, Associate Professor of Patient and Public Involvement
Professor Russ Jago

Professor Russ Jago

Emer Brangan

Dr Emer Brangan

Partners on this project

University of Bristol

The University of Bristol is internationally renowned and one of the very best in the UK, due to its outstanding teaching and research, its superb facilities and highly talented students and staff. Its students thrive in a rich academic environment which is informed by world-leading research. It hosts the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research.