PUBLISHED ON: 15 April 2019

On Thursday 21 March, 28 ActWELL volunteer lifestyle coaches joined Breast Cancer Now and the ActWELL trial team at the V&A in Dundee to celebrate the trial’s achievements to date.

ActWELL is a research trial that seeks to reduce women’s risk of developing breast cancer by helping them make sustainable lifestyle changes, focusing on physical activity, diet and body weight. Women aged over 50 attending their routine breast screening appointments have been invited to take part in the trial, which is being delivered across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

Breast Cancer Now and ActWELL

Breast Cancer Now has supported the delivery of ActWELL by providing a team of volunteer lifestyle coaches to deliver a lifestyle intervention to participants. Lifestyle coaches are supporting women who have been recruited to the trial over 12 months, carrying out two face-to-face lifestyle coaching sessions and nine follow-up telephone support sessions. 

Since the three-year trial began in May 2017, Breast Cancer Now has received over 170 applications from people who wanted to volunteer their time as a lifestyle coach. In total, 66 volunteers have been trained to deliver the intervention with 45 people actively taking on participants across the four cities. 

At the event Professor Annie Anderson (below), from the University of Dundee, gave an update on the trial’s progress to date. In total 560 women were recruited to the study. Of this group, 279 participants were randomly selected to receive the full ActWELL lifestyle intervention and 281 participants were allocated to a control group who did not receive any support. Over 100 participants have now completed the 12-month programme. 

Prof Annie Anderson

The coaching sessions

Face-to-face coaching sessions have formed an integral part of the trial, with over 550 face-to-face coaching sessions in participating leisure centres have taken place and over 1800 phone calls have also been made with women in the intervention group. In addition, 49 women within the control group, who have now completed the trial, have also registered their interest to meet with a lifestyle coach to receive a one-off coaching session. 

Fiona Hazell, Director of Communications and Engagement at Breast Cancer Now, highlighted the importance of projects like ActWELL in achieving our ambition. She said:

ActWELL is a real first for Breast Cancer Now and we couldn’t be more excited to be part of the work. We’re working to raise awareness that breast cancer is preventable, so more women understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle and that breast cancer is not just down to fate.

This project would not be possible without the level of support, commitment and enthusiasm each of the ActWELL lifestyle coaches has shown. Thank you all for taking the time to come and celebrate with us today. It’s fantastic to see so many of you here and testament to the commitment you have all shown to your role in ActWELL. Thank you!

ActWELL volunteers

At the event, Volunteers were given time to reflect on their own experiences and individual contributions to the ActWELL project. They received some of the feedback taken from trial participant evaluations on their experiences of the support they received from lifestyle coaches.

My lifestyle coach was endlessly encouraging and realistic
I found her really encouraging and non-judgemental. Knowing I would talk to her spurred me on
It would be great if more people could have access and support like this
My lifestyle coach was fantastic at keeping me motivated, even through very difficult times

The ActWELL lifestyle coaches 

Breast Cancer Now also received some wonderful feedback from lifestyle coaches on their involvement in ActWELL and what it has meant to be part of the ActWELL team.

During the event we asked lifestyle coaches to tell us ‘What have you taken away from their experience on the ActWELL project’ and to ‘write down 3 words that describe what being involved in the project has meant to you.’

It really has been fantastic to hear volunteers had such a positive experience delivering the project. 
I feel that I have made a big difference to the lives of the participants I have met over the course of the trial
What I have taken from this project is the effects that these interventions have had on the participants, our children and grandchildren!
The health struggle is real for us all and ActWELL/ Breast Cancer Now is helping us all to address this in a positive and non-judgemental way
I really enjoyed meeting new people and seeing their sense of achievement

We asked volunteers to write down three words that describe what being involved in the project meant to them. This is what they wrote:

Word Cloud in the shape of a love heart: "Support, Inspired, Fun,Motivated..."

Everyone at Breast Cancer Now is very much look forward to hearing the results of the trial after it concludes later this year.