Exploring community gardening as a complex public health intervention: an action research study

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this thesis was to involve local people in developing a tailored
community gardening intervention in County Durham, to evaluate the feasibility
and acceptability of this intervention, and explore perceived outcomes from
participation. A mixed methods approach was used, with three studies undertaken.

Study One consisted of three focus groups in community venues. Three themes
emerged which informed intervention design. ‘Nourishing Neighbourhoods’ was
the resultant six-month community garden intervention within which Study Two
and Three were embedded, utilising a non-experimental pre-test/post-test design.

Study Two aimed to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention
across four sites. 41 participants were recruited, 36 started the project (88 %
retention) and 28 remained engaged at endpoint (76 % adherence). Attrition
stopped by week eight. There was no increase in fruit and vegetable consumption,
no change in BMI scores, a reduction in time spent in moderate physical activity,
walking and sitting and an increase in vigorous physical activity. There was an
improvement in both physical and mental components of quality of life, with strong emphasis on improved social functioning.

Study Three used pre- and post- intervention focus groups to evaluate overall
perceptions of the intervention, engagement with different intervention
components, and exploration of the perceived outcomes from participation. Five
main themes emerged.

Findings demonstrated that ‘Nourishing Neighbourhoods’ used feasible and
acceptable methods to recruit and retain participants, and collect data. In addition, community gardening has the potential to have a positive effect on health and wellbeing outcomes. The physical act of gardening is not necessarily the motivating factor; meeting new people, developing skills, ‘me time’, and being
involved in a family activity are important. Community involvement developing the
intervention is crucial to encourage ownership, responsibility and sustainability.
Older people, who are usually hard to reach, were more likely to engage, which
could be of importance when tackling the growing pressures of an ageing
Date of Award1 Apr 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Durham University
SupervisorHelen Moore (Supervisor), Shelina Visram (Supervisor), Falko Sniehotta (Supervisor) & Carolyn Summerbell (Supervisor)

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