The Hobart

All Aboard for Tassie Health Initiative

by The Hobart Magazine
All Aboard for Tassie Health Initiative

Dr. Verity Cleland, of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, is behind the Get BusActive program. The Tasmania project promotes increasing physical activity through public transport use, with participants potentially receiving up to $100 in gift vouchers.

What is the Get BusActive program? The project uses a ‘health by stealth’ approach to get Tasmanians more active, without really having to think too much about it. Less than half of Tasmanian adults are active at levels that give health benefits – such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Because any activity is better than none, and activity adds up throughout the day, finding ways to add more movement into our daily routines has the potential to make a big impact on our health. We know that people who use public transport tend to be more active than those who drive, so getting people to use the bus more may have the benefit of upping our daily activity levels. We also know that driving is an entrenched habit that is hard to shift, and that many of us may need an incentive to change our patterns. Our project is testing whether giving incentives to catch the bus – a bit like a frequent shopper program – can support Tasmanians to use public transport more often and increase their daily activity levels at the same time. It is a win-win situation – more physical activity equals better health and less burden on our over-stretched healthcare system, and more public transport equals cleaner air and less traffic on our roads.

You’re the chief investigator – what does your role entail? Every day is different. I’m responsible for overseeing the implementation of the project from start to finish. This includes everything from developing the original project idea with my colleagues, securing funding for the project, building and maintaining relationships with our project partners Metro Tasmania and state and local government, making sure all legal and ethical obligations are met, managing our budget and employing staff, doing media and promotions, and working with our team – Clinical Trial Coordinator Lizzy, Data Manager/Analyst Oli, and Project Officer Kathy – to make the project happen.

What do you hope the study will uncover? We hope to see that the study volunteers who receive incentives to catch the bus more, do in fact catch the bus more, and as a result, are more active in their everyday lives. We tried to do this study at the end of 2019, but we had to abandon it in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives so dramatically. The findings from the data that we had collected to that time suggested that people who received incentives were using the bus more and were more active for transport purposes. This time around, we hope to be able to finish the study to see if this is really the case.

How can readers get involved? They can head to our website – www.getbusactive.com.au – or give our team a call on 6226 4298. There are some requirements to join in including needing to be at least 15 years old and have access to a Metro Tasmania bus in Hobart, Launceston, or Burnie. Those who qualify can receive up to $100 in gift vouchers just for taking part.

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May 2024

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