Background: Physical inactivity is an important but under recognised risk factor for chronic disease. This study explored changes in general practitioners' perceptions and practices in relation to addressing physical activity from 1997-2000.
Methods: In 1997 and 2000 GPs in five divisions of general practice in New South Wales were sent a questionnaire about their knowledge, confidence, perceived role, and frequency of talking to patients about physical activity.
Results: At the second survey, GPs had significantly improved their knowledge and perceived role in physical activity promotion as well as their confidence to address this risk factor. However, GPs reported discussing physical activity with similar numbers of patients in 1997 and 2000.
Discussion: State wide campaigns and National Heart Foundation efforts may have influenced GPs' knowledge and beliefs about physical activity, but not the extent to which they discuss this with their patients. Greater attention needs to be given to the barriers that hamper these GP efforts.