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Swiss Med Wkly. 2012 Jul 11;142:w13606. doi: 10.4414/smw.2012.13606.

Attitudes, barriers and facilitators for health promotion in the elderly in primary care. A qualitative focus group study.

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  • 1Institute of General Practice, University of Zurich, Switzerland.



Effective health promotion is of great importance from clinical as well as from public health perspectives and therefore should be encouraged. Especially regarding health promotion in the elderly, general practitioners (GPs) have a key role. Nevertheless, evidence suggests a lack of health promotion by GPs, especially in this age group. The aim of our study was to assess self-perceived attitudes, barriers and facilitators of GPs to provide health promotion in the elderly.


We performed a qualitative focus group study with 37 general practitioners. The focus group interviews were recorded digitally, transcribed literally and analysed with ATLAS.ti, a software program for qualitative text analysis.


Among the participating GPs, definitions of health promotion varied widely and the opinions regarding its effectiveness were very heterogeneous. The two most important self-perceived barriers for GPs to provide health promotion in the elderly were lack of time and insufficient reimbursement for preventive and health promotion advice. As intervention to increase health promotion in the elderly, GPs suggested, for example, integration of health promotion into under and postgraduate training. Changes at the practice level such as involving the practice nurse in health promotion and counselling were discussed very controversially.


Health promotion, especially in the elderly, is crucial but in the opinion of the GPs we involved in our study, there is a gap between public health requirements and the reimbursement system. Integration of health promotion in medical education may be needed to increase knowledge as well as attitudes of GPs regarding this issue.

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