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A physiotherapy-directed occupational health programme for Austrian school teachers: a cluster randomised pilot study

Abstract

Background

Although physiotherapists have long advocated workplace health, school teachers have not traditionally been a focus of study by these professionals. However, classroom teaching contributes to a range of occupational health issues related to general health as well as ergonomics that can be prevented or addressed by physiotherapists.

Objectives

To undertake a pilot study to explore the potential effects of a physiotherapy-directed occupational health programme individualised for school teachers, develop study methodology and gather preliminary data to establish a ‘proof of concept’ to inform future studies.

Design

Cluster randomised pilot study using a convenience sample.

Setting

Eight Austrian regional secondary schools.

Participants

Schools and their teachers were recruited and allocated to an intervention group (IG, n=26 teachers) or a control group (CG, n=43 teachers). Teachers were eligible to participate if they reported no health issues that compromised their classroom responsibilities.

Interventions

The IG participated in an individualised physiotherapy-directed occupational health programme (six 30-minute sessions) related to ergonomics and stress management conducted over a 5-month semester. The CG had a pseudo-intervention of one oral education session.

Main outcome measures

Primary outcomes included scores from the physical and mental components and health transition item of the Short-Form-36 Health Survey questionnaire (SF-36), and emotional well-being and resistance to stress items from the work-related behaviour and experience patterns questionnaire. Data were collected before and after one semester.

Results

The primary outcome measure, the SF-36 physical component score, showed a reduction in the CG and no change in the IG, meaning that the CG deteriorated over the study semester while the IG did not show any change.

Conclusions

A physiotherapy-directed occupational health programme may prevent deterioration of physical health of school teachers in one semester (proof of concept). This pilot study provided valuable information to inform the design of replication and extension studies related to this work.

Cite this article

A physiotherapy-directed occupational health programme for Austrian school teachers: a cluster randomised pilot study.Physiotherapy- March 2014(Vol. 100, Issue 1, Pages 20-26, DOI: 10.1016/j.physio.2013.03.003)

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