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Can better breathing ‘Taster Sessions’ improve health outcomes and community support group engagement

A 2019/2020 Summer Studentship research project

The results will have significant impact on the future direction of the Canterbury Community Better Breathing Service. If the results from the pilot Taster was positive, the Canterbury Better Breathing Working Group may consider to incorporate this form of delivery to the future work plans. The service is currently experiencing capacity issues while the interest from the health professionals and public continue to grow.

Student: Noelle Farrell
Supervisors: Dr Michael Maze, David Chen (Community respiratory physiotherapist)
Sponsor: Pegasus Health Charitable Limited


The Canterbury Better Breathing Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is a multi-disciplinary programme that utilizes physical exercise training in combination with cognitive and behavioural education in order to improve health related quality of life of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A Cochrane Review of the effects of PR for COPD patients found that participation in a PR programme leads to clinically significant improvements in quality of life, exercise capacity, emotional function and dyspnea. Despite the evidence of the benefits of PR, only a minority of those referred complete the programme. In 2018: 357 (52%) of 687 referred patients attended a PR session, and 239 (33%) completed the 8 week course. In order to improve completion among those attending PR, and to improve engagement with community exercise groups among those who do not attend PR the Canterbury Better Breathing group have developed a single contact 'Taster session' to introduce patients to PR.

We have consulted our PR participants and consumer representatives on the essential topics in the PR programme from their perspective. They have indicated to us:

  • learning the breathing exercises to manage their breathlessness
  • knowing how to use their medication/inhalers correctly,
  • knowing the importance of physical exercises
  • hearing the physician's talk on lung function/pathology were the important topics. The Taster session will cover the four topics suggested with a short practical exercise session

The Taster session will run in the 4th quarter of 2018. We seek to investigate the effectiveness of this Taster session.

Our specific objectives are:

  1. to investigate the self-reported usefulness of the Taster session to people who were referred to a Canterbury Better Breathing Programme but did not attend using a satisfactory survey
  2. to investigate the short term effect of the Taster session on community exercise group participation
  3. by auditing the proportion of participants attending the taster session who then attend greater or equal to two community exercise group sessions within the following 3 months


  • Method: Clinical interview survey audit.
  • Participants: Patients who attended the Taster session
  • Sample size: We expect approximately 50 patients to attend the Taster session, and aim to recruit every participant. Consent: We will obtain informed written consent at the Taster session.
  • Study procedures: PR staff will administer a questionnaires (CAT, EQ-5D, 1MSTST and Satisfactory survey) at the time of the taster session (objective 1).

The summer student will administer a follow-up phone questionnaire and a semi-structured interview after 3 months enquiring about community group participation.

Student researcher’s component of the study

  • administer follow-up phone questionnaires
  • clean and conduct a supervised descriptive analysis of the data
  • generate a report to the Better Breathing Working Group
  • present at CME and potentially conferences to share the learnings

Student Prerequisites

Some biostatistics understanding and an engaging, empathetic phone manner

How to apply