Promoting physical activity interventions in communities with poor health and socio-economic profiles: A process evaluation of the implementation of a new walking group scheme

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Walking groups have known health benefits but may not operate in communities with the greatest health needs, leading to the potential for increasing health inequity. This study examined the process of implementing a new volunteer led walking group scheme in a deprived community in England with poor physical activity, health and socio-economic indicators. Documentary evidence and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and volunteer walk leaders undertaken at the beginning and end of the funding period were analysed thematically. It was found that utilising community-based assets, forming collaborative partnerships with health and non-health organisations and ongoing sustainability issues were all factors that affected the scheme's effective implementation. Passive recruitment methods and mass publicity did not attract participants who were representative of their community. The findings firstly suggest the necessity of identifying and mobilising community based assets at the ‘grass roots’ in deprived communities during the preparatory stage to access those in greatest need and to plan and build capacity. Secondly, the findings highlight the key role that health professionals have in referring those in poorest health and the inactive into walking interventions. In the new era of fiscally constrained public health embedded within local authorities these findings are pertinent in supporting the utilisation of local assets to address entrenched physical inactivity and inequity within deprived communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77–85
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date25 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Walking groups
  • physical activity
  • public health
  • health equity
  • process evaluation

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