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Health education and the primary care physician: The practitioner's perspective

By Ann S. Ford and W. Scott Ford


Considering the attention given to health education and promotion, it is surprising that little research assesses the opinions and behavioral inclinations of physicians. Survey data collected in Florida address this issue. Responses of primary care private practitioners reveal that whereas MDs endorse health promotion and acknowledge a link between positive lifestyle and health, their outlook regarding the potential of community-based health education remains skeptical. A majority blame ineffective health education on public apathy. Nonetheless, a sizeable minority are willing to either begin or increase their involvement in health education programs. Multivariate analyses suggest that active or receptive MDs view the public's lifestyle knowledge as inadequate and select the MD as the health professional most suited to assume primary responsibility for health education. Clues for identifying practitioners who might engage in further health education are provided by examining age, specialty, patient load and community size. For example, GPs/FPs might more readily endorse an educational program if it allows for one-to-one physician-patient interaction; emphasizing this instructional mode appears less important in securing the cooperation of their more specialized primary care counterparts. Further, MDs with the larger caseloads are more likely to view health education as the physician's responsibility.

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