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Br J Gen Pract. 2000 Jun;50(455):455-9.

Can general practitioners influence the nation's health through a population approach to provision of lifestyle advice?

Author information

1
Division of Public Health, Nuffield Institute for Health, University of Leeds.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Lifestyle advice from general practitioners (GPs) has been shown to have a positive effect on population health. In practice, GPs provide lifestyle advice to a minority of their patients only, those who are high risk or already have symptoms.

AIM:

To look in depth at GPs' attitudes towards adopting a population approach to lifestyle advice and to use these results to identify ways of maximising the potential of GPs to affect population health.

METHOD:

Thirty-six GPs, purposively sampled by identifying characteristics likely to affect their health promotion activity, participated in a focus group study. Data from the focus groups were transcribed verbatim and analysed using standard methods.

RESULTS:

The main themes that emerged suggested that GPs do not take a population approach to lifestyle advice because they prefer a high risk approach and doubt their ability to be effective in a population approach. GPs believed that social, cultural, and environmental factors were the most important determinants of population health. Furthermore, they were concerned about the detrimental effects on the doctor-patient relationship of providing lifestyle advice to all patients. GPs believed that a multi-agency, centrally co-ordinated approach was the preferred way to improve population health and that their role should be limited to secondary prevention.

CONCLUSION:

Large amounts of resources would be necessary to convince GPs to adopt a population approach to lifestyle advice. Measures to tackle the social and environmental determinants of health may be a more effective and efficient means of improving the nation's health.

PMID:
10962782
PMCID:
PMC1313722
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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