Background: Disease prevention and health promotion are important tasks in the daily practice of all general practitioners (GPs). The objective of this study was to explore the knowledge and attitudes of European GPs in implementing evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention recommendations in primary care, to describe GPs' perceived barriers to implementing these recommendations and to assess how GPs' own health behaviors affect their work with their patients.
Methods: A postal multinational survey was carried out from June to December 2000 in a random sample of GPs listed from national colleges of each country.
Results: Eleven European countries participated in the study, giving a total of 2082 GPs. Although GPs believe they should advise preventive and health promotion activities, in practice, they are less likely to do so. About 56.02% of the GPs answered that carrying-out prevention and health promotion activities are difficult. The two most important barriers reported were heavy workload/lack of time and no reimbursement. Associations between personal health behaviour and attitudes to health promotion or activities in prevention were found. GPs who smoked felt less effective in helping patients to reduce tobacco consumption than non-smoking GPs (39.34% versus 48.18%, P < 0.01). GPs who exercised felt that they were more effective in helping patients to practice regular physical exercise than sedentary GPs (59.14% versus 49.70%, P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Significant gaps between GP's knowledge and practices persist in the use of evidence-based recommendations for health promotion and disease prevention in primary care.