Background: Physicians face increasing pressure to counsel their hypercholesterolemic patients about diet. To design effective physician-based treatment programs, a better understanding of current dietary counseling practice and its determinants is needed.
Methods: Using a survey previously tested for reliability and validity, we examined the relationship of dietary knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, organizational barriers, and treatment practices for cholesterol management among 60 resident and attending physicians practicing in the general medicine clinic of a university medical center that serves primarily rural and disadvantaged patients. The survey was administered in October of 1988 prior to the release of the National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines.
Results: The response rate was 100%. Ninety-two percent of physicians surveyed believe that dietary treatment effectively lowers cholesterol and 68% feel responsible for providing such therapy. However, most (72%) feel ill-prepared to give diet counseling, lack confidence in their ability to help patients make meaningful dietary changes (95%), and cite organizational barriers, such as limited time (72%) or inadequate educational materials (47%). Physicians were more likely to report behaviorally focused diet counseling practices if they felt prepared to counsel (r = 0.42, P < 0.001), were confident in their counseling skills (r = 0.39, P < 0.01), or reported personally following a prudent diet (r = 0.36, P < 0.01). We discuss the implications of these findings and how they should guide the design of physician-based dietary interventions for cholesterol reduction.