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Community based engagement with Dunedin Community Exercise Programme

History of the programme

The programme was first offered in 2008 as a joint community and teaching initiative.

The class has been the initiative of the School of Physiotherapy, however it has also been championed by engagement and support from Mornington Heath Centre, Diabetes Otago and Unipol Recreation Services. The programme has consistently been funded by the School of Physiotherapy, but also from grants from Well Dunedin Health Trust.

The idea of an exercise class for people with long term health conditions run by trained health professionals provided a novel community service. As a teaching initiative the exercise class gave students the opportunity to work with people who have long term health conditions and to provide exercise prescription. Exercise prescription is increasingly seen as a key skill for physiotherapists, particularly given the increasing prevalence of long term health conditions and the evidence that exercise can make a very positive change to many people with such conditions.

Course details

DCEP is the current evolution of the Community Exercise Class and is offered in conjunction with WellSouth Primary Health Network. WellSouth has provided two years of funding for three 12-week programmes per year.

Further details about DCEP, including how to join can be found at  


The class provides students with an opportunity to gain experience in providing exercise prescription for people with long term health conditions.

Physiotherapy students are also able to work with other health professional students in an interprofessional environment. DCEP is used as a clinical placement for School of Physiotherapy 2nd and 4th year students.


Research informed practice is an important cornerstone of both physiotherapy practice and of professional education.

The course is informed by research evidence relating to long term health conditions and exercise prescription. As this course is in itself a novel approach to community exercise a number of research projects exploring and evaluating the course have been undertaken.

Masters of Physiotherapy

Chris Higgs completed a Masters of Physiotherapy in 2014. The Masters was entitled: Outcomes of a community-based rehabilitation programme for people with Diabetes/Prediabetes.

The study concluded that a community rehabilitation programme for people with diabetes/prediabetes was safe, culturally accepted, feasible and provided health benefits to participants. These benefits were observed both quantitatively in measures of health-related physical fitness and qualitatively in reports of increased social support and confidence in their ability to independently manage their diabetes/prediabetes. The results should be interpreted with a degree of caution due to the high attrition rate, however this represents the clinical reality of working with people with multiple long term health conditions. The programme aligns with current health priorities supporting streamlined management of people with complex health conditions and warrants further research into a scaling up of such a programme into a randomised control trial to investigate both clinical and cost effectiveness.

For further information on the study contact:


Higg,C., Skinner, M., and Hale, L. (2016) Outcomes of a community-based lifestyle programme for adults with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Journal of Primary Health Care 8(2) 130-13

van Bysterveldt, E., Davey, S., Douglas, N., Liu, R. (School of Physiotherapy students) and Robertson, L., Conroy, J., Higgs, C., and Hale, L. (2014) A group exercise programme for people at risk of type II diabetes run as a physiotherapy student clinical placement is beneficial: a qualitative study. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 42 (2) 81-88

Key stakeholders

WellSouth Primary Health Network
Mornington Health Centre
Diabetes Otago


For further information about the course including research, teaching, and clinical practice contact:

Professor Leigh Hale

Chris Higgs (Programme coordinator)