Background: A recent review concluded that general health checks fail to reduce mortality in adults.
Aim: This review focuses on general practice-based health checks and their effects on both surrogate and final outcomes.
Design and setting: Systematic search of PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials.
Method: Relevant data were extracted from randomised trials comparing the health outcomes of general practice-based health checks versus usual care in middle-aged populations.
Results: Six trials were included. The end-point differences between the intervention and control arms in total cholesterol (TC), systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP, DBP), and body mass index (BMI) were -0.13 mmol/l (95% confidence interval [CI] = -0.19 to -0.07), -3.65 mmHg (95% CI = -6.50 to -0.81), -1.79 mmHg (95% CI = -2.93 to -0.64), and -0.45 kg/m(2) (95% CI = -0.66 to -0.24), respectively. The odds of a patient remaining at 'high risk' with elevated TC, SBP, DBP, BMI or continuing smoking were 0.63 (95% CI = 0.50 to 0.79), 0.59 (95% CI = 0.28 to 1.23), 0.63 (95% CI = 0.53 to 0.74), 0.89 (95% CI = 0.81 to 0.98), and 0.91 (95% CI = 0.82 to 1.02), respectively. There was little evidence of a difference in total mortality (OR 1.03, 95% CI = 0.90 to 1.18). Higher CVD mortality was observed in the intervention group (OR 1.30, 95% CI = 1.02 to 1.66).
Conclusion: General practice-based health checks are associated with statistically significant, albeit clinically small, improvements in surrogate outcome control, especially among high-risk patients. Most studies were not originally designed to assess mortality.
Keywords: general practice; health check; mortality; primary health care; risk factors; systematic review.