Detailed methods of two home-based vegetable gardening intervention trials to improve diet, physical activity, and quality of life in two different populations of cancer survivors.
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Cancer survivors suffer from long-term adverse effects that reduce health-related quality of life (QOL) and physical functioning, creating an urgent need to develop effective, durable, and disseminable interventions. Harvest for Health, a home-based vegetable gardening intervention, holds promise for these domains.
This report describes the methods and recruitment experiences from two randomized controlled feasibility trials that employ a waitlist-controlled design. Delivered in partnership with Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, this intervention provides one-on-one mentorship of cancer survivors in planning and maintaining three seasonal vegetable gardens over 12months. The primary aim is to determine intervention feasibility and acceptability; secondary aims are to explore effects on objective and subjective measures of diet, physical activity and function, and QOL and examine participant factors associated with potential effects. One trial is conducted exclusively among 82 female breast cancer survivors residing in the Birmingham, AL metropolitan area (BBCS); another broadly throughout Alabama among 46 older cancer survivors aged >60 (ASCS).
Response rates were 32.6% (BBCS) and 52.3% (ASCS). Both trials exceeded 80% of their accrual target. Leading reasons for ineligibility were removal of >10 lymph nodes (lymphedema risk factor), lack of physician approval, and unwillingness to be randomized to the waitlist.
To date, recruitment and implementation of Harvest for Health appears feasible.
Although both studies encountered recruitment challenges, lessons learned can inform future larger-scale studies. Vegetable gardening interventions are of interest to cancer survivors and may provide opportunities to gain life skills leading to improvements in overall health and QOL.