British Journal of Health Psychology

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Volume 24 Issue 4 (November 2019), Pages i-iv, 739-998

‘We're all in the same boat’: A qualitative study on how groups work in a diabetes prevention and management programme (pages 787-805)

Objectives Although many health interventions are delivered in groups, it is unclear how group context can be best used to promote health‐related behaviour change and what change processes are most helpful to participants. This study explored participants’ experiences of attending type 2 diabetes prevention and management programme, and their perceptions of how group participation influenced changes in diet and physical activity. Design Qualitative. Methods Semi‐structured telephone interviews were conducted with 20 participants (twelve men) from nine groups in the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study. Interviews were audio‐recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using thematic analysis in NVivo. Results Participants benefited from individual change processes, including information provision, structuring and prioritizing health goals, action planning, self‐monitoring, and receiving feedback. They also benefited from group processes, including having a common purpose, sharing experiences, making social comparisons, monitoring and accountability, and providing and receiving social support in the groups. Participants’ engagement with, and benefits from, the groups were enhanced when there was a supportive group context (i.e., group cohesion, homogeneous group composition, and a positive group atmosphere). Optimal facilitation to develop an appropriate group context and initiate effective change processes necessitated good facilitator interpersonal and professional skills, credibility and empathy, and effective group facilitation methods. Participants reported developing a sense of responsibility and making behaviour changes that resulted in improvements in health outcomes and weight loss. Conclusions This study highlights the role of individual and group processes in facilitating health‐promoting behaviour change, and the importance of group context and optimal facilitation in promoting engagement with the programme. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Many health interventions, including programmes to help prevent or manage diabetes and facilitate weight loss, are delivered in groups. Such group‐based behaviour‐change interventions are often effective in facilitating psychological and behaviour change. There is considerable research and theory on individual change processes and techniques, but less is known about which change processes and techniques facilitate behaviour change in group settings. What does this study add? This study contributes to our understanding of how participating in group‐based health programmes may enhance or impede individual behaviour change. It identified individual (intrapersonal) and group (interpersonal, facilitated through group interaction) change processes that were valued by group participants. The findings also show how these change processes may be affected by the group context. A diagram summarizes the identified themes helping to understand interactions between these key processes occurring in groups. The study offers an insight into participants’ views on, and experiences of, attending a group‐based diabetes prevention and management programme. Thus, it helps better understand how the intervention might have helped them (or not) and what processes may have influenced intervention outcomes. Key practical recommendations for designing and delivering group‐based behaviour‐change interventions are presented, which may be used to improve future group‐based health interventions.

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