Promotion of health in older people: a randomised controlled trial of health risk appraisal in British general practice

Age Ageing. 2008 Sep;37(5):565-71. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afn150.


Background: there is inadequate evidence to support currently formulated NHS strategies to achieve health promotion and preventative care in older people through broad-based screening and assessment in primary care. The most extensively evaluated delivery instrument for this purpose is Health Risk Appraisal (HRA). This article describes a trial using HRA to evaluate the effect on health behaviour and preventative-care uptake in older people in NHS primary care.

Methods: a randomised controlled trial was undertaken in three London primary care group practices. Functionally independent community-dwelling patients older than 65 years (n = 2,503) received a self-administered Health Risk Appraisal for Older Persons (HRA-O) questionnaire leading to computer-generated individualised written feedback to participants and general practitioners (GPs), integrated into practice information-technology (IT) systems. All primary care staff received training in preventative health in older people. The main outcome measures were self-reported health behaviour and preventative care uptake at 1-year follow-up.

Results: of 2,503 individuals randomised, 2,006 respondents (80.1%) (intervention, n = 940, control n = 1,066) were available for analysis. Intervention group respondents reported slightly higher pneumococcal vaccination uptake and equivocal improvement in physical activity levels compared with controls. No significant differences were observed for any other categories of health behaviour or preventative care measures at 1-year follow-up.

Conclusions: HRA-O implemented in this way resulted in minimal improvement of health behaviour or uptake of preventative care measures in older people. Supplementary reinforcement involving contact by health professionals with patients over and above routine clinical encounters may be a prerequisite to the effectiveness of IT-based delivery systems for health promotion in older people.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Expert Systems
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • London
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • National Health Programs
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Preventive Health Services*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN28458424