Geraldine Wallbank is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health. “Prevention is better than cure” is the basis of her PhD, which focuses on strategies to promote independence in older age by commencing adequate physical activity in the middle age years.
Please tell us a little about yourself. Hi, I’m Geraldine, and am a PhD candidate at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health (IMH, partnership with The University of Sydney and Sydney Local Health District), Sydney School of Public Health. I worked as a physiotherapist in adult rehabilitation before joining the Physical Activity, Ageing and Disability Research Stream at the Institute as a research assistant. It was the novel and collaborative work of IMH which inspired me to do further research at a postgraduate level.
What is your research on? “Prevention is better than cure” is the basis of my work. My PhD focuses on strategies to promote independence in older age by being physically active in the middle age years. Insufficient physical activity is an important global problem and is the cause of around 5.3 million deaths per year. Women in their middle age years face many unique barriers to being physically active and so they need a supported approach to adopt and sustain this health behaviour.
I am collaborating with researchers from different faculties and disciplines. We’ve developed and are pilot testing the acceptability, feasibility, and impact of a remotely delivered intervention to support physical activity in a randomised trial, using behaviour change science. Women have access to the Active Women over 50 website, regular motivational-based email/SMS messages, and telephone health coaching delivered by a physiotherapist. So far, this study has been highly acceptable amongst participants and has been feasible to deliver. We are currently analysing the data, but promising preliminary results indicate that we may be able to test this in a fully powered randomised controlled trial.
What are the real-world consequences of your research? This research is quite exciting as it can potentially be directly implemented at a population level if found effective in a larger trial. It offers a scalable solution for the problem of poor physical activity and the burden inactivity causes to individuals and health systems. Our remotely delivered physical activity intervention has potential to reach those who are isolated and has relevance in this global context of the COVID pandemic. Women across broad socio-geographic settings and isolated populations could be impacted and empowered to prevent physical deconditioning and maximise their health for independent and healthy ageing.
What does digital health mean to you? Digital health is a compelling way to efficiently deliver health and address global public health problems. To me, digital health harnesses the reach and efficiency of technology, and delivers health information and healthcare with a person-centred approach. We can use digital health synergistically with other proven effective methods such as tailored telephone health coaching to enhance people’s engagement with behaviour change programs.
Do you have any resources or links you would like to share?
A very big thank you to Geraldine for being our June student feature!