Background: Health promotion programs can be effective in improving the delivery of clinical preventive services and in improving population health; however, the availability of health promotion programs offered through physician organizations, such as medical groups and independent practice associations, are largely unknown.
Methods: This research uses data from the National Study of Physician Organizations and the Management of Chronic Illness, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, to document the extent to which physician organizations offer health promotion programs. Of 1587 physician organizations nationally with 20 or more physicians, 1104 participated, for a response rate of 70%.
Results: Overall, 60% of physician organizations offer at least one health promotion program targeting one or more of eight areas: prenatal education (42%), smoking cessation (39%), nutrition (39%), weight loss (34%), health risk assessments (25%), stress management (25%), substance abuse (20%), and sexually transmitted disease prevention (16%). Factors positively associated with offering health promotion programs include the following: outside reporting of quality measures, public recognition for quality measures, clinical information technology systems, being a medical group, and ownership by a hospital or health plan.
Conclusions: Physician organizations in the United States have a long way to go in offering these important programs to their patients. However, our findings also suggest that health plans, purchasers, and policymakers can play a positive role in increasing the use of these programs. By offering recognition and incentives for quality improvement, and by funding the expansion of information technology, the healthcare community can encourage and enable physician organizations to increase the availability of health promotion programs nationally.