The dilemma of patient responsibility for lifestyle change: perceptions among primary care physicians and nurses

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2007 Dec;25(4):244-9. doi: 10.1080/02813430701691778.


Objective: To explore physicians' and nurses' views on patient and professional roles in the management of lifestyle-related diseases and their risk factors.

Design: A questionnaire study with a focus on adult obesity, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and smoking.

Setting: Healthcare centres in Päijät-Häme hospital district, Finland.

Subjects: Physicians and nurses working in primary healthcare (n =220).

Main outcome measures: Perceptions of barriers to treatment of lifestyle-related conditions, perceptions of patients' responsibilities in self-care, experiences of awkwardness in intervening in obesity and smoking, perceptions of rushed schedules, and perceptions of health professionals' roles and own competence in lifestyle counselling.

Results: A majority agreed that a major barrier to the treatment of lifestyle-related conditions is patients' unwillingness to change their habits. Patients' insufficient knowledge was considered as such a barrier less often. Self-care was actively encouraged. Although a majority of both physicians and nurses agreed that providing information, and motivating and supporting patients in lifestyle change are part of their tasks, only slightly more than one half estimated that they have sufficient skills in lifestyle counselling. Among nurses, those with less professional experience more often reported having sufficient skills than those with more experience. Two-thirds of the respondents reported that they had been able to help many patients to change their lifestyles into healthier ones.

Conclusions: The primary care professionals experienced a dilemma in patients' role in the treatment of lifestyle-related diseases: the patient was recognized as central in disease management but also, if reluctant to change, a major potential barrier to treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Health Centers
  • Counseling
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control
  • Dyslipidemias / complications
  • Dyslipidemias / prevention & control
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Patient Education as Topic* / methods
  • Physician's Role
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires