Eileen Tiffney, Podiatry Support Manager; Dr Wendy Cousins. University of Ulster, School of Nursing & Dr Sinead Keeney, University of Ulster, Institute of Nursing Research.
In 2004 a podiatry service now based within the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust rolled out The Foot Care Empowerment Project as part of a waiting list management strategy which mirrored projects in other parts of the United Kingdom. This strategy aimed to ensure rapid access to services for those with greatest podiatric and medical need while people with low podiatric and medical need were discharged via the empowerment project pathway. This aimed to promote self-care by increasing individuals’ knowledge and skills.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of The Foot Care Empowerment Project from the participants’ perspective. All 140 people who were discharged following attendance at a foot care empowerment talk over a one year period ( 1st April 2007 to 1st April 2008) were sent a postal questionnaire resulting in 118 completed responses (a response rate of 84%) This consisted of 54% females and 46% males with the majority (79%) aged over the age of 65. Results showed that only 10% of participants reported that their foot care had improved following the foot care empowerment talk. Interestingly this group all assessed themselves as being able to care at least moderately well for their feet before the empowerment talk. The key factor affecting respondents’ assessments of the programme's outcome was their own physical ability (or inability) to self care and this was related to mobility and health status.
This study illustrated that the podiatry patient empowerment program did affect knowledge and attitudes to self-care but behaviour change in terms of the participants’ own increased ability to care for their feet was not reported by the majority (90%) of respondents. These findings illustrate the need to be aware of the principles of behaviour change and highlight the importance of targeting suitable individuals and groups in future health empowerment initiatives.