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October 2021

J Am Board Fam Pract. 1997 Mar-Apr; 10(2): 104-10.

Physician health promotion training activities in primary care: a survey of the military residencies.

Jonas WB.

Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Md., USA.

BACKGROUND: The central role of primary care physicians in health care management, as well as their influence on patients at the highest risk for life-style related disease, makes adequate training in office and hospital health promotion activities essential. METHODS: A questionnaire adapted from one used nationally was sent to all the military training programs in internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, and obstetrics-gynecology. The questionnaire addressed areas of content, emphasis, facilities, setting, personnel, techniques, and methods used in teaching, as well as priorities placed on health promotion in general and in specific areas. RESULTS: A response was obtained from all training programs (n = 59). Overall, 85 percent had set aside specific time to teach health promotion topics, and 81 percent had set aside time to teach preventive screening. Health promotion topics were incorporated by 85 percent of the programs, and preventive service topics were included in the core curriculum in 86 percent. In 63 percent of the programs residents were taught about assessment of patient motivation, but behavioral modification, relapse prevention, and self-efficacy skills were taught in less than one half of the programs (47, 37, and 34 percent, respectively). For the most part, programs stressed the traditional teaching techniques, such as discussion and lectures (93 percent and 92 percent, respectively), and rarely applied the more effective (and labor-intensive) methods of case precepting (58 percent), viewing videotaped cases (24 percent), and role-playing (5 percent). Only 41 percent of the programs had patient education materials readily available, but many (65 percent) had modified patient problem lists to include preventive or health promotion topics. Physician or patient reminders were used by only a few programs (35 percent and 17 percent, respectively), and in only 48 percent were the residents trained to use any health-screening or health risk appraisal questionnaire. Programs overwhelmingly relied on their physician staff and residents to do health promotion teaching and made little use of ancillary health care personnel who might be better trained in patient education methods. CONCLUSIONS: Primary care residency programs emphasize teaching health promotion and preventive services but generally have not yet developed the teaching systems to provide residents with skills training in preventive and health promotion services. Programs could enhance the clinical prevention skills of physicians completing residencies by having the physicians focus on the skills needed to teach patients self-efficacy, behavior modification, and health maintenance, by using physician and patient reminders, and by taking advantage of health care personnel trained in health education.

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