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J Am Board Fam Med. 2006 May-Jun;19(3):224-31.

Using action plans to help primary care patients adopt healthy behaviors: a descriptive study.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, USA.



An action plan is an agreement between clinician and patient that the patient will make a specific behavior change. The goals of this study are to: determine whether it is feasible for patients to make action plans in the primary care visit; determine whether patients report carrying out their action plans; and describe the action plans patients choose.


Forty-three clinicians in 8 primary care sites were recruited to hold action-plan discussions with patients. Research assistants contacted patients by telephone 3 weeks later to assess whether patients had conducted their action plans.


Eighty-three percent of enrolled patients (228) made an action plan during a primary care visit. Of the 79% who recalled making the action plan when interviewed by telephone 3 weeks later, 56% recalled the details of their action plan, and an additional 33% recalled the general nature of the action plan. At least 53% of patients making an action plan reported making a behavior change consistent with that action plan.


Most patients reported making a behavior change based on an action plan, suggesting that action plans may be a useful strategy to encourage behavior change for patients seen in primary care.

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