Background: The effect of patient education on reducing stroke has had mixed effects, raising questions about how to achieve optimal benefit. Because past evaluations have typically lacked an appropriate theoretical base, the design of past research may have missed important effects.
Method: This study used a social cognitive framework to identify variables that might change in response to education. A mixed design was used to evaluate 2 approaches to an intervention, both of which included education. Twenty-six seniors completed a measure of stroke knowledge and beliefs twice: before and after an intervention that was either "standard" (educational brochure plus activities that were not about stroke) or "enhanced" (educational brochure plus activities designed to enhance beliefs about stroke). Outcome measures were health beliefs, intention to exercise to reduce stroke, and stroke knowledge.
Results: Selected beliefs changed significantly over time but not differentially across conditions. Beliefs that changed were (1) perceived susceptibility to stroke, and (2) perceived benefit of exercise to reduce risk. Benefit beliefs, in particular, were strongly and positively associated with intention to exercise.
Conclusion: Findings suggest that basic approaches to patient education may influence health beliefs. More effective stroke prevention programs may result from continued consideration of the role of health beliefs in such programs.