Background: Patient, physician, and consultation variables associated with overweight and smoking counseling in general practice consultations were examined.
Methods: A random sample of full-time general practitioners was used. The sample consisted of 7,160 patients from 230 GPs who attended for consultations on consecutive days, and self-reported information from the doctor and the patient was collected via questionnaire. The aim of this paper is to identify variables associated with the doctor's identification of overweight and smoking status and with the occurrence of counseling for these two behavioral risk factors.
Results: Forty percent of patients were overweight (BMI > 24) and 25% were self-reported smokers. Doctors identified 59% of overweight patients and 66% of smokers. Doctors only counseled patients identified as having the risk factor, counseling 36% of identified overweight patients and 49% of identified smokers. Identification of overweight was associated with being female, being heavier, having been previously counseled, being less well educated, presenting with an associated condition, and visiting a doctor who is younger and knows the patient's medical history well. Counseling for overweight was associated with being younger, being previously counseled, presenting with an associated condition, presenting for a routine checkup, visiting a GP who generally has longer consultations, having BP measured in the consultation, visiting an older doctor and visiting a doctor who considers identification of risk behaviors important. Identification of smokers was associated with being a heavier smoker, with those who had been previously counseled, with marital status other than single or married, with a BP measurement being taken in the consultation, and with a doctor who believed it possible to influence lifestyle change. Counseling for smoking was associated with younger patients, longer consultations, previous counseling, BP measurement, presenting with an associated condition, and not presenting frequently.
Conclusions: We have identified factors associated with counseling about behavioral risk factors which provide a framework for planning education programs to increase the level of primary preventive activities within general practice.