Objectives: To examine the overall effectiveness of patient education and counseling on preventive health behaviors and to examine the effects of various approaches for modifying specific types of behaviors.
Data sources: Computerized databases (Medline, Healthline, Dissertation Abstracts, and Psychological Abstracts), bibliographies 1971-1994. Search terms (patient education, patient compliance, and self care) with modifiers (evaluation and specific preventive behaviors).
Study selection: Randomized and non-randomized controlled trials measuring behavior in clinical settings with patients without diagnosed disease. Abstracts and retrieved studies screened by multiple reviewers; 13% of retrieved studies met screening criteria.
Data extraction: Replicated coding by multiple observers.
Data synthesis: Behaviors were grouped based on whether the behavior is addictive and whether the desired change required subtraction of existing behaviors or adding new behaviors. The weighted average effect size from a random effects model for smoking/alcohol studies was 0.61 (CI = 0.45, 0.77), for nutrition/weight, 0.51 (CI = 0.20, 0.82) and for other behaviors, 0.56 (CI = 0.34, 0.77) indicating that the behavioral outcomes for these subgroups were significantly different from zero. Multiple regression models for the three groups indicated that using behavioral techniques, particularly self-monitoring, and using several communication channels, e.g., media plus personal communication, produces larger effects for the smoking/alcohol and nutrition/weight groups.
Conclusions: Patient education and counseling contribute to behavior change for primary prevention of disease. Some techniques are more effective than others in changing specific behaviors.