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Am J Prev Med. 1997 Jan-Feb;13(1):36-44.

The University of Virginia health promotion and disease prevention program.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville, USA.



Proof of effectiveness now exists for many health promotion and disease prevention practices, yet the importance of this knowledge is not widely appreciated, and a large percentage of the population does not receive this care. Universities with comprehensive academic medical centers are particularly appropriate places for providing health promotion programs. The University of Virginia began a health promotion and disease prevention program for employees in 1990.


Periodic health risk appraisal, with follow-up and selected interventions, is offered to approximately 14,000 employees as a cost-free fringe benefit. Health risks are assessed with a modification of the Carter Center Health Risk Appraisal. Results are given to participants in group sessions; referrals are made for clinical preventive services and interventions, as needed.


During the first three years, 29% of the employee population participated in the program. Participants were more likely to be young, female and not African American. Nearly 96% had one or more risk factors, with an average of 3.6 risk factors overall. Participants on average had 1.8 risk factors for cardiovascular disease; 0.3 for cancer; 0.6 for injury; 0.1 for alcohol abuse; and 0.7 for mental health. Nonparticipants were not receiving similar comprehensive health risk appraisal elsewhere.


University of Virginia employees have multiple health risks, not detected through their usual health care, for which effective interventions are available. This population probably reflects conditions throughout the state and nation. Academic medical centers should place high priority on establishing health promotion programs as part of their responsibilities to society.

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