Building community-clinical linkages to increase older adult physical activity: The PT-REFER trial protocol and participant baseline characteristics

Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2019 May 1:15:100373. doi: 10.1016/j.conctc.2019.100373. eCollection 2019 Sep.


Background: Physical activity is important for maintaining older adult health, but a majority of older adults are not meeting recommended physical activity levels. This paper describes the protocol and participant baseline characteristics for a trial (named "PT-REFER") to test an intervention focused on developing community-clinical linkages to increase older adult referrals from physical therapy clinics to an evidence-based group exercise program (Enhance®Fitness) (EF) offered by YMCA associations.

Methods: We designed a two-arm cluster-randomized controlled trial with YMCA associations. We conducted formative research with YMCA staff and physical therapists to inform intervention format and content. The primary outcome is the number of new participants enrolled in EF over the course of 30 months. We also collect process information on cost and implementation though structured surveys and semi-structured qualitative interviews.

Results: The PT-REFER intervention creates a learning collaborative for YMCA associations, which are tasked with implementing a number of capacity- and partnership-building activities over the course of seven months, and participating in monthly group technical assistance calls. We recruited 20 YMCA associations from 13 states. At baseline, the average number of EF sites per association was 3.9 and the monthly average number of new EF participants was 3.7.

Conclusions: This study will test an approach to increasing the capacity of YMCAs for conducting outreach to physical therapy clinics, and evaluate the factors that may influence its implementation. As a result, it has the potential to contribute to our understanding of how to develop viable and sustainable community-clinical linkages for older adult health.

Keywords: Community-clinical linkages; Exercise; Older adults; Physical activity; Randomized controlled trial.