Walk to Beijing’: Participant experiences of an incentive scheme to promote physical activity in Sandwell, West Midlands
This paper reports findings from a qualitative evaluation of the ‘Walk to Beijing’ behaviour change programme, implemented by Sandwell PCT. The programme employed a community-based approach aimed at encouraging residents in the area of Sandwell to increase their lifestyle physical activity levels. Financial incentives, town competition and an end state goal of collectively walking the distance to Beijing were utilised with the aim of motivating participants to make lifestyle changes relating to their health. The lived experiences of participants taking part in this programme are explored with the aim of informing future service provision.
This study formed part of a larger, mixed-method, project investigating the effectiveness of an incentive-based scheme designed to promote positive health behaviour, specifically physical activity. A series of semi-structured post-intervention interviews were conducted with people involved in the ‘Walk to Beijing’ programme.
Participants were randomly selected from the Sandwell community who had completed the intervention phase of the programme using computer generated numbers. Originally, 30 participants were invited to attend. Semi-structured, one-to-one, interviews were conducted, post-intervention, with 16 individuals who agreed to take part. Participants were asked to talk about their idiographic experiences of the project, including, motivations for taking part, activity levels pre- and post-intervention, outcomes, impact of the incentive, and possible barriers to participation. Additionally, participants were asked to comment on practical aspects of the project including its design and delivery. Data were then analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to investigate themes emerging from the interviews.
Themes emerging from the data included ‘initial motivations’, ‘impact of incentive’, ‘positive outcomes’, ‘barriers to intervention implementation’ and ‘future intentions’. Overall, the intervention was viewed positively by those taking part.
Several conclusions can be drawn from the themes that emerged from the data. Findings suggested that providing a financial incentive within the behaviour change programme optimised uptake and recruitment. For instance, the majority of participants who attached a low value on the impact of the incentive reported that they would have participated regardless of the incentive. Alternatively, those who placed a high value on the incentive suggested that it was essential to their participation. Therefore, this study supported the use of an incentive-based intervention at the community level in this population. Further issues relating to the future service provision of Sandwell PCT will be discussed. Reflections on the use of IPA in this context will also be discussed.