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This programme of research was inspired by a stroke survivor participant in a participatory action research (PAR) study which explored accessibility of fitness centres as a place for supported physical activity.

“There are no pictures of men who look like me at this fitness facility.” TG stroke survivor

These words got us thinking about the use of imagery as a powerful “messenger” to shape men's views and motivations towards physical activity participation. Effective messaging for health promotion, requires imagery and the accompanying text to be meaningful, relatable, and culturally relevant to the end-user.

Our goal is to co-create meaningful health messages that inspire and empower men living with long term conditions and/or disability to participate in physical activity and build health capacity to live well.

Research Philosophy

Our research is a strength-based approach which prioritises the voice of the end-user and their family/whānau/aiga. At its heart, our research is built on the values of equity, collaboration, partnership, respect, reciprocity, and trust. Researching in this way ensures we co-create outcomes that are meaningful and culturally relevant.

Research programme pathway

Shadow of man with walking stick and dogAn exploration of physical activity health messaging for men with disability

We have undertaken interconnected exploratory qualitative studies to understand:

  • The views of NZ men living with Parkinson's disease and stroke about existing physical activity health messages and, how they could be reframed to be meaningful, valuable, and inspirational for them.
  • How middle aged and older men living with disability experienced physical activity and why it was meaningful to them using photography and storytelling.

Key take away messages

Physical activity health message communication strategies for men living with disability:

  • Meaningful imagery should be inspiring, empowering, relatable, emphasise what men can do and illustrate men's motivations for physical activity.
  • Frame messages positively and consider the language used: inclusive, jargon free, and simple.

Impact statement
One message does not fit all! Tailor messages to be meaningful and culturally relevant to the end-user and consider multiple formats for message delivery to accommodate all abilities and learning styles.


da Silva, K., Baxter, G.D., & Calder, A. (2023). Views of men with Parkinson's disease regarding physical activity health messaging. Disability and Health Journal, 16(1), 101370.

Funding support

University of Otago Health Sciences Division Summer Studentship
University of Otago Research Grant (UORG)

Working to better support Māori and Pasifika men

Despite the intention to recruit Māori and Pasifika men to our studies, they were noticeably absent. Reflecting as a research team we examined and challenged our clinical and research perspectives about how Māori and Pacific peoples believe physical activity fits into their lives.

We propose to undertake Pacific, and Māori led community-based participatory research to explore the meaning and value of physical activity for indigenous and Pacific men living with long term conditions and/or disability.

Outcomes: Enable priority setting for future research and health delivery practice and identification of culturally responsive research methodologies and methods.

Physical activity health messaging for family/whānau/aiga supporting men living with stroke

“We get mixed messages. People [health professionals] say, 'Oh you must walk more' and then yesterday the physio came and said, 'Don't overdo it'.” (Female partner of stroke survivor)

Many stroke survivors rely on their family members for support however, families feel vulnerable when transitioning into the community. A key frustration for families living with stroke is the lack of information or conflicting messages provided by health professionals. If partners are to be an essential source in supporting stroke survivors' self-management of physical activity, they require resources that are meaningful and credible to enhance their confidence and self-efficacy.

Ally's PhD research

Using a participatory action research approach, we collaborated with female partners of male stroke survivors to co-design an educational resource prototype to guide and empower them in providing self-management support for male stroke survivors' participation in physical activity.

Impact statement
Development of an educational resource prototype which provides practical strategies to:
* Manage the challenges of life after stroke
* Ideas for managing inconsistent access to meaningful physical activity information
* Considerations for the successful stroke survivor physical activity participation

Publication (including educational resource)

Calder, A., Sole, G., & Mulligan, H. (2022). Co-design of and educational resource with female partners of male stroke survivors to support physical activity participation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(24), 16856.

Funding support

Canterbury Branch (including Jean Irwin) Charitable Trust
PNZ Scholarship Trust

Our next and current project - coming October 2023!

Recognising that the educational resource was developed by a small group of female partners of stroke survivors, we will explore the acceptability and usability of the educational resource with a wider audience of families with lived experience of stroke. We will use a participatory “think aloud” method and qualitative interviews with families to understand their views about the presentation of the information, the content, and the acceptability of the imagery. This study will commence in October 2023.

Outcome: Development of the next iteration of the educational resource which will be evaluated nationally.

Our Impact goal: Freely available, meaningful, and relevant resource for families living with stroke to support and guide physical activity participation.

Funding support

Physiotherapy New Zealand (PNZ) Neurology Special Interest Group (NSIG)

The team:

Research Programme Principal Investigator:  Dr Ally Calder (Lecturer, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago; Co-Director of the Centre for Men's Health, University of Otago).

A/Prof Elaine Hargreaves: Dean, School of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Otago
Oka Sanerivi: Pasifika Physiotherapist, Gisborne
Tovia Tauaivale: Pasifika Physiotherapist, Musculoskeletal Private Practice, Christchurch
Sheree Tikao-Harkess: Māori Physiotherapist, Christchurch  
Duncan Drysdale: Pasifika Physiotherapist, Private Practice, Hawkes Bay
Catherine Digby: Neurorehabilitation Physiotherapist, Te Whatu Ora Christchurch
Karis da Silva: Summer student and Honours student, School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago
Prof David Baxter: Dean, Graduate Research School, University of Otago
Mrs Amelia Petherick: Neurorehabilitation Physiotherapist
Mr Eric Knapp: Lived experience of stroke
Ms Jessica Alexander: Partner of a stroke survivor
Ms Lynnley Driver: Partner of a stroke survivor

Strengthening relationships with:
Global Action for Men's Health (GAMH)
Men's Health Week NZ
NZ Men's Health Trust
Etu Pasifika Christchurch


We are committed to building research capacity and are seeking students who are interested in exploring the meaning and value of physical activity and meaningful approaches for health messaging, health promotion, and health delivery for men living with long term conditions and/or disability. Our research team is looking for enthusiastic students who bring an inclusive, collaborative, strength-based philosophy along with a strong commitment to equity and partnership.


Centre of Men's Health Colloquium 2022

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