Addressing multiple behavioral risk factors in primary care. A synthesis of current knowledge and stakeholder dialogue sessions

Am J Prev Med. 2004 Aug;27(2 Suppl):4-17. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2004.04.024.


Background: Addressing behavioral risk factors in primary care has become a pressing concern due to the increasing burden of behavioral risk factors on disease, healthcare costs, and public health. Risk factors considered include smoking, risky drinking, sedentary lifestyle, and unhealthy diet-singly or in combination. The already burdened primary care system needs a practical approach to efficiently and effectively address any combination of multiple risk factors. Multiple perspectives and broad insight are urgently needed to gain a deeper understanding of the interacting scientific, systems, and policy issues associated with multiple risk factor interventions (MRFIs).

Purpose: This paper synthesizes findings from literature reviews, epidemiologic analyses, and structured interactive dialogue sessions, and includes a set of recommendations designed to stimulate further action.

Methods: Several papers were produced to document current knowledge, research evidence, and salient issues related to multiple risk factor assessment and intervention. Structured interactive dialogue sessions were then conducted with clinician, health system, and health policy leaders regarding what advantage or energy would be liberated by a multiple risk factor approach (rather than separate single risk factor approaches), and how to build a policy framework or constituency for MRFIs. This information is synthesized in this paper.

Results: There is a clear need to address MRFIs among multiple stakeholders, including patients, purchasers, payers, clinicians, health system leaders, and policy-level stakeholders. MRFIs need to bring with them a compelling value proposition for all stakeholders, and a vision of practical and systematic ways to make it a reality in already-pressed primary care practices. Involving stakeholders in dialogue aimed at helping them see the world through each other's eyes helps overcome discouragement and generates energy for jointly designing new approaches. Recommendations for further action include the creation of multistakeholder dialogue, creation of a policy agenda, development of a translation or integration agenda that connects researchers and practitioners in a two-way exchange, initiation of a series of demonstration projects around MRFIs, and support for research on multiple (rather than only single) risk factor interventions.

Conclusions: The need to address multiple behavioral risk factors in primary care is increasingly urgent. Whereas stakeholders by themselves may be willing to address multiple risk factors, they agree that it can only be done successfully with a collaborative approach. Findings based on evidence reviews, hypotheses generation, and stakeholder dialogue provide guidance for appropriate further action that, based on what is known already, can be initiated right away.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Body Mass Index
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Risk Factors*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • United States