Physician perceptions of primary prevention: qualitative base for the conceptual shaping of a practice intervention tool

BMC Public Health. 2002 Aug 30;2:16. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-2-16. Epub 2002 Aug 30.


Background: A practice intervention must have its basis in an understanding of the physician and practice to secure its benefit and relevancy. We used a formative process to characterize primary care physician attitudes, needs, and practice obstacles regarding primary prevention. The characterization will provide the conceptual framework for the development of a practice tool to facilitate routine delivery of primary preventive care.

Methods: A focus group of primary care physician Opinion Leaders was audio-taped, transcribed, and qualitatively analyzed to identify emergent themes that described physicians' perceptions of prevention in daily practice.

Results: The conceptual worth of primary prevention, including behavioral counseling, was high, but its practice was significantly countered by the predominant clinical emphasis on and rewards for secondary care. In addition, lack of health behavior training, perceived low self-efficacy, and patient resistance to change were key deterrents to primary prevention delivery. Also, the preventive focus in primary care is not on cancer, but on predominant chronic nonmalignant conditions.

Conclusions: The success of the future practice tool will be largely dependent on its ability to "fit" primary prevention into the clinical culture of diagnoses and treatment sustained by physicians, patients, and payers. The tool's message output must be formatted to facilitate physician delivery of patient-tailored behavioral counseling in an accurate, confident, and efficacious manner. Also, the tool's health behavior messages should be behavior-specific, not disease-specific, to draw on shared risk behaviors of numerous diseases and increase the likelihood of perceived salience and utility of the tool in primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Counseling
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical
  • Family Practice
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • New York
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Marketing
  • Tape Recording