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People with physical disabilities face additional barriers to being physically active but physical activity has particular benefits for people with disabilities. This theme focuses on developing and testing strategies to enable both children and adults with disabilities to be more active. We aim to help reduce the global epidemic of physical inactivity.

Current research projects & trials

ComeBACK – Coaching and Exercise for Better Walking

We hope the findings of this project lead to improved physical activity levels in adults who have difficulty walking. The aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of two physical activity interventions on adults with self-reported walking difficulty. The participant will be allocated to one of three groups. The first intervention includes: a tailored physical activity plan based on a face-to-face assessment with a physiotherapist; six months of phone-based health coaching; use of technology to keep you active and access to online resources. The second intervention is a less intensive health-coaching program involving a phone consultation with a physiotherapist, monthly text messages to follow up and access to online resources. The third group will receive no intervention for the first six months and then receive the second intervention for the second six months. The project will be conducted over 12 months. You may be eligible to participate in this study if you are 18 years or older, living in the community, and have a mobility limitation – difficulty or inability to walk 800m. Principal Investigator: Professor Cathie Sherrington Chief Investigators: Professor Rana Hinman, Professor Maria Crotty, Professor Tammy Hoffmann, Professor Anne Tiedemann, Professor Lisa Harvey, Professor Nicholas Taylor and Associate Professor Leanne Hassett. For more information about this project, please contact: Associate Professor Leanne Hassett e: This is a NHMRC Project Grant (2018 – 2021).

BRIDGES – Brain Injury: Developing Guidelines for Physical Activities

We hope the findings of this project will lead to improved physical activity levels in people living with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). The aim of this project is to develop clinical practice guidelines for physical activity in people across all ages living with moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Australia. A plan will also be developed for the effective implementation of these guidelines. The first stage involves evaluating the fit of the 2020 WHO physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for people living with disability to those living with a moderate-to-severe TBI. This includes considering the evidence available regarding physical activity in TBI, preferences for physical activity, perspectives of relevant stakeholders and the feasibility of guideline implementation. Stage two involves auditing brain injury rehabilitation services across Australia to understand how physical activity is delivered and promoted to identify current practice and where practice inconsistencies exist. The third stage involves adapting the WHO guidelines into national clinical practice guidelines for people living with TBI, informed from stages one and two. The final stage involves the development of a plan for implementation of these national practice guidelines based on the identification of barriers and facilitators. Principle Investigator: A/Prof Leanne Hassett Co-Investigators: Prof Gavin Williams (UniMelb); Prof Cathie Sherrington (USyd); A/Prof Sean Tweedy (UQ); Prof Luke Wolfenden (UniNewcastle); Prof Maria Crotty (Flinders); Prof Kirsten Howard (USyd); Dr Abby Haynes (USyd); Emeritus Prof Adrian Bauman (USyd); A/Prof Grahame Simpson (USyd); A/Prof Adam Scheinberg (MCRI); Prof Anne Tiedemann (USyd); Gabrielle Vassallo (consumer representative); Nick Rushworth (BIA) Collaborating Organisations: Brain Injury Australia, Connectivity TBI; icare NSW; Heads Together for ABI Research team: Dr Liam Johnson (UniMelb); Sakina Chagpar (USyd); Belinda Wang (USyd) Funding: MRFF 2020 Traumatic Brain Injury Mission, Stream 2-incubator 2021-2023.

BEHAVIOUR – Brief Physical Activity Counselling by Physiotherapists

We hope the findings of this project will lead to improved physical activity levels in patients receiving brief physical activity counselling as part of their physiotherapy treatment. BEHAVIOUR is a hybrid type II cluster randomised controlled trial. The aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-faceted implementation strategy compared to usual care on increasing the proportion of patients receiving brief physical activity counselling as part of hospital-based physiotherapy care, and subsequently improving the physical activity levels among these patients. Physiotherapists in the intervention group will be assigned to receive the multi-faceted implementation strategy immediately to support them to incorporate brief physical activity counselling into their routine care. The main implementation strategies will include education training, creating a learning collaborative, tailored strategies to address community referral barriers, facilitation and audit and feedback. The control group will receive an updated version of the implementation strategy at the end of the trial. The trial will be conducted with physiotherapists across all hospitals in South Western Sydney Local Health District and will include participants from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Principle Investigator: A/Prof Leanne Hassett Co-Investigators: Professor Catherine Sherrington (USyd), Mr Matthew Jennings (SWSLHD), Dr Marina Pinheiro (USyd), Dr Bernadette Brady (SWSLHD/USyd), Professor Sarah Dennis (Usyd/SWSLHD), Professor Kirsten Howard (USyd), Dr Alison Pearce (USyd), Dr Lauren Christie (St Vincent’s Health Network Australia, ACU/SWSLHD), Ms Balwinder Sidhu (SWSLHD), Professor Colin Greaves (UniBirmingham) Funding: MRFF preventive & public health grant 2020-2023; NHMRC TRIP Fellowship 2019-2020. For more information about this project, please contact: Associate Professor Leanne Hassett e:


We hope the findings of this project lead to enhanced promotion of physical activity by health professionals for people aged 50+ and people of all ages with a physical disability. The aim of the project is to to collaboratively develop and test a strategy to support health professionals to promote PA to their patients – including older adults and children/adolescents/adults with physical disabilities – within their daily clinical practice. The project is currently recruiting participants for phase one of the study-collaborative implementation strategy development. In this phase we will conduct interviews, focus groups, workshops and surveys with health professionals, exercise providers and consumers to identify barriers to PA promotion and collaboratively develop the evidence-based implementation strategies and intervention elements. Phase 2 of the study is a Type 2 hybrid effectiveness-implementation cluster randomised trial (2023 onwards). In Phase 2 we will test the effectiveness of the implementation strategies and intervention elements in a Type 2 hybrid cluster randomised trial recruiting 800 participants across 30 sites. Chief Investigator Professor Cathie Sherrington (IMH) Our team comprises academics, public health experts and health economists from the University of Sydney, UNSW, Western Sydney University and Australian Catholic University, as well as multi-disciplinary clinicians from five Local Health Districts (Sydney, Western Sydney, South-Western Sydney, South-Eastern Sydney and Sydney Children Hospitals Network). Partner organisations include Disability Sport Australia, Australian Physiotherapy Association, Clinical Excellence Commission, iCare and Belgravia Leisure. This project has received ethics approval from Local Health District Ethics Committees and is being funded by an NHMRC Partnership Grant. For more information about this project, please contact: Kate Purcell e:

PlaTFORM: PrevenTing Falls in a high risk, vision impaired population through specialist ORientation and Mobility services: a randomised trial

Visually impaired older people are increasing in number, have significant morbidity but are neglected when it comes to a specific falls prevention strategy. The intention of the trial is to validate the new falls prevention program – Exercise (LiFE) – for visually impaired older people. The PlaTFORM Trial aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the Exercise (LiFE) program to prevent falls and improve function in older people with vision impairment compared to usual care. Participants will be randomised to receive either the LiFE intervention or usual care. The LiFE intervention will be delivered by Guide Dogs’ Orientation and Mobility Instructors. Falls will be reported on a monthly bases and physical activity will be measured at the start of the trial, 3 months and 12 months. This study is currently recruiting. You may be eligible to participate in the study if you are: a client of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT with vision impairment severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living; aged 50 years or older; living in the community or self-care unit of a retirement village; able to understand English well enough to undertake study procedures; no more than two errors on the Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire; no diagnosis of dementia; and not scheduled for cataract surgery in the next 12 months. Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Lisa Keay Institute for Musculoskeletal Health Investigator: Professor Anne Tiedemann For more information on this George Institute for Global Health trial, please contact: Kirsten Jakobsen e: Trial registered on ANZCTR: ACTRN12616001186448 This NHMRC trial has received ethics approval from the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee.

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