Purpose – Increasing physical activity (PA) is an international public health priority.
This study aims to assess the impact of an environmental stair-use intervention using “point of decision” prompts with varying messages in an NHS workplace in the UK.
Design/methodology/approach – Observational data were collected using a covert method (infra-red sensors) in an interrupted time-series design over an eight-week period.
Intervention - consisted of posters displaying encouraging messages in the entrance to two stairways of an acute NHS hospital. The hospital site is a public building accessible to patients, staff (n = ~7,000), students and the general public. Questionnaires (n =221) assessed employee self-reports of and attitudes towards stair-use.
Findings – Following 24-hour observational counts (n = 143,514) no statistically significant differences were seen in either stair climbing or descent on either stairway through the introduction and removal of promotional posters. A number of determinants and barriers to stair-use were identified. Posters were reported as “seen” by a low proportion of respondents (7-25 per cent) and only a small number felt encouraged to use the stairs as a result of the prompts (25-37 per cent of those who “saw” them, 3-18 per cent of total sample).
Research limitations/implications – The study evaluates the impact of a stair-use intervention in a public hospital building, a setting within which research investigations have to date been limited. More research is needed to further investigate determinants and barriers to stair-use and the impact of different message types and locations of “point-of-decision” prompts in a hospital setting.
Practical implications – Environmental interventions to increase stair-use in this setting may be best placed within a comprehensive workplace programme including health education and multi-component interventions.
Originality/value – “Point of decision” prompts are inexpensive as a long-term intervention. As part of a large-scale workplace health campaign, encouraging even a small percentage of employees to use the stairs in organisations of this size is of significance to workplace health promoters.