A BehaviourWorks Australia Collaboration

The Challenge of Leading Your Best Life with Spinal Cord Injury

BehaviourWorks Australia collaborated with Austin Health, AQA, and Transport Accident Commission (TAC), to engage people living with spinal cord injury in making better decisions about their health and lifestyles. This project specifically engaged young men under 35 years of age - a cohort of people who continue to be overrepresented in acute spinal cord injury presentations.

This program of work was conducted between 2020-2023 in collaboration with BehaviourWorks Australia, AQA and Austin Health, and funded by the Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC).

Project overview

Healthcare practitioners and social care systems must think differently about how they support people living with spinal-cord injury to continue to lead their best lives. Young men under 35 years of age face unique challenges that make it more difficult for them to seek and engage in help, with many of these challenges revolving around social expectations of masculinity, self-identity, and stigma.

The basis of this project was to inject new ways of thinking into how to enable males under 35 with a spinal cord injury to continue to ‘lead their best life’ and thrive in the modern era. Our aim was to consider the life journey and think about how we can adapt current practices, introduce new interventions that engage and equip young men to thrive, and support the healthcare system to shift from the traditional medical model to a more social model of care.


According to Professor Andrew Nunn, Director of the Victorian Spinal Cord Service at Austin Health, approximately 100 people will sustain a spinal cord injury in Victoria per year, with approximately 35% of them being young males. 

Young men under 35 years of age continue to be overrepresented in acute spinal care injury presentations. A spinal cord injury is a catastrophic, unexpected, life-changing condition that not only affects an injured person physically, but also all aspects of their life.

Though young men under 35 tend to be an overrepresented group who sustain traumatic spinal cord injuries, our health and social care systems continue to struggle to effectively engage these young men to look after their health, wellbeing and re-establish their daily routines. 

In 2020, BehaviourWorks Australia collaborated with Austin Health, AQA, and TAC to conduct exploratory research on why and how young men, in general, engage in help-seeking behaviours. From there, we were able to conduct more focused research and deep dive into the issue our health and social care systems face today: How to engage young men living with a spinal cord injury to look after their health and wellbeing to lead their best lives.

Timeline of activities

Project scope and activities

This project had three main goals to be completed over three phases of work:

  1. Explore how to best engage with males under the age of 35 years (not limited to those with a spinal cord injury). In addition, we wanted to understand how this cohort adapts to changed circumstances and manage their health and lifestyle.
  2. Use this understanding to: (i) co-design interventions that can support males under the age of 35 years with a spinal cord injury to lead their best life through the self-management of their own health and lifestyle, and (ii) prioritise an intervention within this agenda addressing a high-priority area of need for TAC
  3. Develop, implement and evaluate the prioritised interventions that aim to support men under 35 years of age living with a spinal cord injury.

What’s happening now?

We have completed the trials for the 3 interventions developed in this project and hope to continue to test these interventions in new settings for further scaling and dissemination. 

 Contact us to collaborate on the next phase of this project.

For those interested in incorporating simulation training, a key activity piloted in intervention 1, read this blog about what simulation training looks like or get in touch

Download the Final Report

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Please feel free to visit the program web page if you want to refresh your understanding of the program or access key reports (see below) before proceeding.


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