Aims: The aims of this study were to explore stakeholders' expectations of municipal Healthy Life Centers (HLCs) in Norway, and to evaluate whether these expectations were compatible with current guidelines and recommendations.
Methods: A multidisciplinary team of researchers arranged focus group sessions with Healthy Life Centre staff, municipality administration, county administration, general practitioners and representatives of three patient organizations. We audiotaped and transcribed the sessions verbatim. In analyses we used Systematic Text Condensation and an editing analysis style.
Results: Expectations spanned from primary prevention among children to rehabilitation of adults with established disease, depending on the stakeholders' assumptions of the role of HLCs. Healthcare providers emphasized person-centered advice based on the participant's willingness to change, and their impressions of the participant's presenting condition and life circumstances. Many participants represented underprivileged groups, not reached by population-based information strategies. Consistent with self-determination theory, participants who contacted the HLCs themselves more often expressed a will for lifestyle change than those referred from general practitioners, and less often dropped out. Participants with complex challenges and insufficient coping strategies often strived with follow-up. Among these, many suffered from mental health problems.
Conclusions: The Norwegian HLC is still a concept in development and is trying to define its position in the public healthcare system. In accordance with national recommendations to reduce social health inequalities, the stakeholders emphasized providing effective, evidence-based HLC programs including underprivileged groups. They also expressed concern about prioritizing between an individual and population approach, and between different target groups and tasks.
Keywords: Behavioral change; healthy living; lifestyle; motivational interviewing; public health; self-determination.