Background: Health risk appraisal is a promising method for health promotion and prevention in older persons. The Health Risk Appraisal for the Elderly (HRA-E) developed in the U.S. has unique features but has not been tested outside the United States.
Methods: Based on the original HRA-E, we developed a scientifically updated and regionally adapted multilingual Health Risk Appraisal for Older Persons (HRA-O) instrument consisting of a self-administered questionnaire and software-generated feed-back reports. We evaluated the practicability and performance of the questionnaire in non-disabled community-dwelling older persons in London (U.K.) (N = 1090), Hamburg (Germany) (N = 804), and Solothurn (Switzerland) (N = 748) in a sub-sample of an international randomised controlled study.
Results: Over eighty percent of invited older persons returned the self-administered HRA-O questionnaire. Fair or poor self-perceived health status and older age were correlated with higher rates of non-return of the questionnaire. Older participants and those with lower educational levels reported more difficulty in completing the HRA-O questionnaire as compared to younger and higher educated persons. However, even among older participants and those with low educational level, more than 80% rated the questionnaire as easy to complete. Prevalence rates of risks for functional decline or problems were between 2% and 91% for the 19 HRA-O domains. Participants' intention to change health behaviour suggested that for some risk factors participants were in a pre-contemplation phase, having no short- or medium-term plans for change. Many participants perceived their health behaviour or preventative care uptake as optimal, despite indications of deficits according to the HRA-O based evaluation.
Conclusion: The HRA-O questionnaire was highly accepted by a broad range of community-dwelling non-disabled persons. It identified a high number of risks and problems, and provided information on participants' intention to change health behaviour.