Physician-patient interactions regarding diet, exercise, and smoking
Authors: H Nawaz, ML Adams, DL Katz
Reference: Preventive Medicine 2000; 31: 652-57, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00917435
Summarized by: Juan Ramos, Program Coordinator, ProCor
Physicians can be helpful in promoting healthy behavior by routinely screening and counseling their patients against certain health risk behaviors. Researchers of this study assessed the frequency of physician queries about lifestyle risks (smoking, diet and exercise) in a telephone survey of adults in Connecticut, USA. Respondents who had a routine checkup in the past year (n = 433) were asked whether their physicians had asked them about their dietary habits, exercise or smoking, and about any efforts to modify these behaviors during the preceding year.
Diet was addressed with 50% of the subjects, exercise with 56% and smoking status with 77%. Respondents who were asked about their diet were more likely to have changed their fat or fiber intake in the past year (64%) than those not asked (48%), and were somewhat more likely to have lost weight (46% vs 37%). The differences were even greater among 94 overweight subjects (64% vs 48%). No behavior change was associated with discussions of exercise or smoking.
They survey did not address advice or counseling; therefore, an assumption cannot be made that counseling occurred if the respondent was asked about the issue. However, it is unlikely that advice was given if no query was made. Unlike hypertension or elevated cholesterol, the physician would be unlikely to know if a patient were sedentary or eating a poor diet without asking. The physician would then need to combine this information with other knowledge of the patient, including his or her readiness to change, before making a final decision about counseling.
Researchers concluded that physicians have the potential to impact health behaviors, especially those related to diet, though simple discussions during routine checkups. However, according to this study, only about half are using this opportunity. Based on their reported readiness to change, many patients may be receptive to any counseling the physician might then provide.