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Adv Contracept. 1997 Jun-Sep;13(2-3):283-93.

The behavior of Italian family physicians regarding the health problems of women and, in particular, family planning (both contraception and NFP).

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  • 1National Health Service, Italy.


The hospital-centered trend that has dominated medical culture and the management of health care during this entire century has, in the last few years, undergone a reversal in Italy. Conditions in other countries suggest that similar changes have or will become increasingly common. The family physician today manages many of the functions previously handled by hospitals and specialists. In the field of reproductive health, family physicians are responsible not only for diagnosis and treatment, but also for prevention and education. The present study considers this new context with the objective of investigating the knowledge and behavior of Italian family physicians in the field of women's health, with particular regard to family planning (including natural family planning), through (1) a qualitative study (focus groups) of a small group of family physicians and (2) a questionnaire sent to 500 family physicians throughout Italy. The results of the focus group are summarized in the form of obstacles that the family physician finds in providing family planning services and proposals for change. The results indicate that because of their holistic approach, the family physician is an appropriate provider of family planning services although continued use of specialists' services, changes in logistics of the family physicians' practice, increased gender sensitivity, and additional training and information are necessary. The results of the questionnaire (121 responses, 24.2%) indicate that the Italian family physician currently lacks certain important information about family planning and would require logistical support to provide these services but is interested in acquiring information and is an appropriate family planning provider. An additional challenge for encouraging family practitioners to provide natural methods is that they favor a "medical" approach rather than a "behavioral" one in their treatment preferences for several other conditions.

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