The academic paper ‘Australian fitness professionals' level of interest in engaging with high health-risk population subgroups: findings from a national survey', observes and discusses the interest from a collection of professionals within the fitness industry and how they respond to high health-risk individuals. The abstract clearly explains what the paper is going to look at, however some of the statements and results that are used in this opening ‘advertisement' do not do the paper or the authors credit. The objective sets the scene for the paper, by explaining that the results from the survey (the central point of discussion) are broad and not focused on a specific area, therefore their conclusions are not backed by reliable results. The response to the survey was less than 15%, limiting their results as well. The abstract doesn't clarify the authors definition of a fitness professional (FP), is this someone working in the industry, retired or newly qualified? On a positive note, the paper is clearly backed by a good amount of research, with 27 references from journals and cases studies. However, the range of research the authors have completed dates back to 2000, meaning that the research could potentially be out-dated and no longer relevant. Although the abstract is just a summary of the findings, the simplified terminology, ‘high-level of interest' from the FP, is not specific enough for me as it leaves too much to the imagination.
It is recommended that adults aged between 18-64 should engage in at least 150 minutes of vigorous/moderate exercise per week (World Health Organisation, 2009). The number of people working within the industry in Australia is a key feature that gives the reader perspective for the survey in discussion. It is also worth highlighting that it refers to a very broad group of people by stating, ‘Australians working in the fitness industry'. Are these professionals or are they qualified to a certain level and to what extent are they working within the fitness industry, e.g. as a coach or in marketing? This flaw leads me to believe that the actual figure of people actively working in relevant career paths within the industry could be much lower. However, we must acknowledge the argument the author puts forward as he suggests that more should be done to utilise the ‘20,000 working FPs', due to their potential population reach. According to the author they would have the ability to make more of an impact on the high health-risk individuals as they are at the centre of the solution, but more importantly they are the face of the cure. On the other hand, the author informs us of a lack of support within health promotion for FPs. Similar observations are made in other public reviews on FPs and in recent years it has been admitted that there is little research done in this field despite the importance (De Lyon, Neville and Armour, 2016).
The focus of the paper is introduced as it is said that the training of FPs may be tailored to ensure they are safely educating individuals, but this does imply that they ‘may learn', but this has not yet been done. The closing paragraphs to the introduction touch upon the interest of the professionals in developing their knowledge and the arguments of the importance of this interest and why it may not already exist. The paper is easy to read and understand, as well as providing an interesting point of view for readers. However, there could be an expansion into the different types of FPs, careers and age groups, to give the reader more of a relatable insight into the areas of potential reach these professionals might have, for example, teachers in schools, meaning a higher percentage of reaching a certain age group. Similarly, we are several paragraphs into the paper and do not yet know what types of health risks are being referred to with this sub-group.
The methods used by the authors to conduct the research are admirable, as they had the support for the survey from a prestigious and relevant employment body for FPs, ‘Fitness Australia'. Upon learning in more detail, the methods of communication used to survey participants, we can now appreciate the 13.1% completion rate. The results were achieved by emails and email reminders which were ignored or considered ‘spam' by non-respondents, which means the database wasn't necessarily of low standard, as previously we might have presumed. We can also consider the ‘observers' paradox', a term coined by William Labov (1972) which has been later used in reference to teacher's classroom observation (Keegan, 2014) which imply that surveys completed without observation are more likely to result in more truthful answers by the respondent.
There is a clear explanation of the techniques applied in the survey to ensure easy completion and therefore most reliable results. Table 1 shows us the results of the survey, which gives an interesting insight into some of the potential criticisms that the survey now gives way to. For instance, only 6.8% of the FPs have achieved a qualification at undergraduate level, versus the highest percentage (67.4%), completing Certificate IV (Level 4) in fitness. This tells us that the cause for the scrutiny on FPs' level of interest in high-risk health groups, could be due to lack of knowledge. Pair this result with the result of two thirds of the survey results showing that qualifications were achieved in less than 12 months and makes you question the level of education received.
It is easy for the reader to agree with the authors intentions despite their level of interest in the subject, as the summarised results conclude that the majority of respondents have a strong interest in high-risk health groups. This result supports the authors argument that there is potential to utilise the 20,000 FPs for the benefit of supporting the high-risk health groups. The author could strengthen his arguments by referencing some examples, for instance a study by Connelly (2015) on the effects of online fitness training, hosted by FPs for Type 2 Diabetics. There could also be more detail regarding the ‘national and state governmental health departments and fitness industry training providers. Without the inclusion of such detail, it is unclear of the existence of these and what power they hold.
I disagree with the authors theory on the percentage of urban FPs having an interest in high health-risk groups. His theory is that because the high health-risk groups have a bigger presence in rural Australia, this could be reason for the lack of interest from urban professionals. His theory is not coherent in my opinion and is weak without a reference or supporting evidence. Key results from the survey are discussed in further detail and each point the author makes is consistent with his abstract summary and findings, giving further weight to his theories. A development in the research is referenced with an additional study into nutritional advice provided by fitness professionals, that is considered beyond their educational level. This supports the idea that FPs do not do more for high health-risk groups, not due to lack of interest-which the survey proves, but due to their inability to provide the appropriate service to clients.
Although the authors research and results present a good argument for the utilisation of FPs in Australia, he doesn't really build upon this by offering any examples of current use of FPs to help and support high health-risk groups. An example of a way in which FPs specifically help these sub groups, or a reference regarding the limitations of FPs helping these sub-groups would have added more weight to both sides of the argument. As it stands the reader does not know either way if anything has been done already to make use of this potential reach of people, or ways in which the professional could help high health-risk groups.
Despite a problem clearly being identified, there is no evidence to show that high health-risk groups are of concern in Australia, this is left to the readers own personal knowledge to presume the scale or this ‘problem'. There is mention of different health-risk groups within the survey, but we don't know from the paper, the extent to which these groups are of concern in Australia. The authors briefly mention the development of research into this issue as there is other notable patterns in terms of financial stability and interest towards fitness and also the areas of increased health risk and their link with wealth as well. This is all that is mentioned in this area, so again, it is not a strong support of the argument. Unfortunately, the arguments following the survey are too brief and don't really give the reader a strong cause for support. The reader has too many un-answered questions, such as, why specifically would the FPs be able to improve the high health-risk groups and also, what is it they are trying to achieve? The only insight that the authors have given us, is that if the FPs could reach out to these groups, they could have the education and training required to work with these groups, but why do they need to do so?
There were fewer references included in the arguments and development of the paper, compared to in the introduction, methods and research. It may have been expected by the readers to learn more about why FPs do not choose to develop their education further. This could be a reason to why currently FPs are advising beyond their own understanding. The authors could have discussed a potential lack of funding or availability that might be a cause for this low level of knowledge. Another area of development that is missing from the authors arguments is the expectations of FPs. This could have helped the reader better understand why FPs are advising beyond their educational ability, as well as FPs also being criticised for failing to perform routine checks on clients, as they do not consider this as part of their role (Bennie et al., 2018). There is a mixture of opinions and perceptions regarding the role of a FP and what a client should expect from them. A popular view is that a FP may prescribe exercise as a way for a client to achieve specific goals (Bradley, 2013), so the authors could have outlined ways in which specific health-risk groups may cause additional obstacles for FPs.
The survey presents a successful collection of data across a large area of professionals. Despite the limited number of questions, it is easy to pull useful correlating data and determine patterns and theories from the questions. The authors mention in the conclusion the importance of education of FPs and the relevance of this link between the high health-risk groups but doesn't specify why.
In conclusion, the authors of this research paper have introduced an interesting proposal as a way to health support high health-risk groups of people, by making use of the 20,000 FPs in Australia. However, when discussing such an important issue the authors should be including an evidence-based policy to support their theories. This is because national and state governmental health departments and fitness industry education-training providers cannot be convinced into supporting this argument, no matter how convincing the wording, without evidence. Indeed, Lancaster et al (2013) suggests that the health industry has been calling for greater debate among consumers and professionals. Furthermore, Gaventa and Cornwall (2008) highlight the slogan “nothing about us without us” which highlights how the journal in question should at least conclude by suggesting that more partnerships and debates need to occur in health. For example, it should recommend a new link between the health care systems and private fitness sectors as well as public fitness. There could also be a mention at tackling the high health-risk groups by placing greater emphasis on the fitness programmes we offer in schools, similarly to the journal by Pakhalchuk and Holyuk (2018) on the variables and limitations that effect physical activity lessons in schools. Furthermore, the conclusion does not relate to any of the previous studies mentioned in the introduction, such as on Bird and Hawley's (2016) assumption that Health Professionals should work in partnership with social services and families when working with elder clients.
The literature is relevant to the research and does identify a need for the research, as well as the theories related to the subject, despite the lack of detail with some points. Unfortunately, the reader cannot identify any opposing argument from the authors, meaning the paper doesn't present a balanced view. However interesting and logical the authors theories and research are, there appears to be a lack of evidence to support the theories regarding education for FPs and the potential population reach they might have. There is also not enough insight into how successful FPs are in helping these sub-groups, as well as any limitations and outside variables that may affect the typical expectations of a FP. This subject is now open for further research and theory development, but this paper does not necessarily provide conclusive data for the reader.
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