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Is the Better Breathing Programme Pandemic Ready? Assessing engagement with digital services among participants in the Better Breathing Programme

A 2020/2021 Summer Studentship research project

Student: Anna Urquhart
Supervisors: Michael Maze, David Chen
Sponsor: Pegasus Health


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 lung diseases. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the PR programme. PR involves close contact among large groups of respiratory vulnerable people, which is a high risk activity and had to be stopped during periods of community transmission. Given the benefits of PR to this patient group, finding ways to continue the eservice during future ‘lock-downs’ is critical, and digital delivery is one strategy that is being pursued. However, in order to be effective, participants need to be able to access the programme.


The aim of the summer studentship is to:

  • Determine the proportion of current participants who would be able to fully participate in a computer based tele-health rehabilitation programme
  • Determine if there are is equity in ability to participate for Māori, Pacific people or rural consumers
  • Identify barriers that exist to participation

The research will determine whether consumers would be able to fully participate in a telehealth, and what barriers need to be overcome in order to deliver a functional PR programme in the event of a further COVID-19 lockdown.


We will conduct a cross-sectional survey and conduct a standardised questionnaire to participants engaged in PR or on the waiting list to attend. We will include a sample of Māori, Pacific people and rurally based consumers to specifically address equity.

Student researcher’s component of the study

Prior to the student starting we will design the questionnaire and obtain appropriate ethical approval. The student will administer the questionnaire to consumers, analyse the data with support from a Pegasus data analyst and write a report for the Better Breathing Programme and the Integrated Respiratory Services.

Student prerequisites

Some biostatistics understanding and an engaging, empathetic phone manner.