Promoting Physical Activity in Thalidomide Survivors

The overarching objective of the project is to develop an understanding of Thalidomide survivors’ experiences of physical activity and use this understanding to promote an increase in physical activity motivation and behaviour.

This project is being conducted by Dr Han Newman, Dr Anthony Papathomas, & Dr Christof Leicht in collaboration with the Thalidomide Trust and takes a participatory action research approach, prioritising collaboration with the people the research focuses on.

In phase one of the research (March – June 2020), Thalidomide survivors’ experiences of physical activity were explored, including the perceived benefits, barriers, and facilitators to physical activity. Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, two focus groups were able to take place, each with 3-5 participants. 28 one-to-one interviews were then conducted with Thalidomide survivors, 15 via video conferencing software and the remaining 13 by telephone.

In phase two (July – September 2020) a group of 12 Thalidomide survivors formed an intervention design team with the lead researcher. The purpose of this phase was to work with participants in a collaborative process to design a real-world, viable intervention to meet Thalidomide survivors’ needs. The lead researcher worked with participants to ensure that key psychological principles were embedded in the final intervention design.

Phase three is currently in progress. The intervention designed in phase two is being piloted with a group of 10 Thalidomide survivors who would describe themselves as ‘inactive’ or as needing further support to make physical activity a regular part of their life. The five-week intervention, as designed in phase two, aims to empower participants to make their own personal choices regarding physical activity and to equip them with skills and knowledge that will last beyond the intervention period. The intervention takes a three-pronged approach, consisting of motivation and mindset support, social support, and informational content. Post-intervention evaluation interviews will explore participants’ experiences of the intervention.

Written by Dr Han Newman