Weight gained in young adulthood often persists throughout later life with associated chronic disease risk. Despite this, current population prevention strategies are not specifically designed for young adults.
We designed and assessed the efficacy of an mHealth prevention program, TXT2BFiT, in preventing excess weight gain and improving dietary and physical activity behaviors in young adults at increased risk of obesity and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
A two-arm, parallel-group randomized controlled trial was conducted. Subjects and analyzing researchers were blinded. A total of 250 18- to 35-year-olds with a high risk of weight gain, a body mass index (BMI) of 23.0 to 24.9 kg/m2 with at least 2 kg of weight gain in the previous 12 months, or a BMI of 25.0 to 31.9 kg/m2 were randomized to the intervention or control group. In the 12-week intervention period, the intervention group received 8 text messages weekly based on the transtheoretical model of behavior change, 1 email weekly, 5 personalized coaching calls, a diet booklet, and access to resources and mobile phone apps on a website. Control group participants received only 4 text messages and printed dietary and physical activity guidelines. Measured body weight and height were collected at baseline and at 12 weeks. Outcomes were assessed via online surveys at baseline and at 12 weeks, including self-reported weight and dietary and physical activity measures.
A total of 214 participants—110 intervention and 104 control—completed the 12-week intervention period. A total of 10 participants out of 250 (4.0%)—10 intervention and 0 control—dropped out, and 26 participants (10.4%)—5 intervention and 21 control—did not complete postintervention online surveys. Adherence to coaching calls and delivery of text messages was over 90%. At 12 weeks, the intervention group were 2.2 kg (95% CI 0.8-3.6) lighter than controls (P=.005). Intervention participants consumed more vegetables (P=.009), fewer sugary soft drinks (P=.002), and fewer energy-dense takeout meals (P=.001) compared to controls. They also increased their total physical activity by 252.5 MET-minutes (95% CI 1.2-503.8, P=.05) and total physical activity by 1.3 days (95% CI 0.5-2.2, P=.003) compared to controls.
The TXT2BFiT low-intensity intervention was successful in preventing weight gain with modest weight loss and improvement in lifestyle behaviors among overweight young adults. The short-term success of the 12-week intervention period shows potential. Maintenance of the behavior change will be monitored at 9 months.
Trial Registration: The Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612000924853; https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?ACTRN=12612000924853 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6Z6w9LlS9).
young adults; weight gain prevention; lifestyle behavior; mHealth
Younger adults are difficult to engage in preventive health, yet in Australia they are gaining more weight and increasing in waist circumference faster than middle-to-older adults. A further challenge to engaging 18- to 35-year-olds in interventions is the limited reporting of outcomes of recruitment strategies.
This paper describes the outcomes of strategies used to recruit young adults to a randomized controlled trial (RCT), healthy lifestyle mHealth program, TXT2BFiT, for prevention of weight gain. The progression from enquiry through eligibility check to randomization into the trial and the costs of recruitment strategies are reported. Factors associated with nonparticipation are explored.
Participants were recruited either via letters of invitation from general practitioners (GPs) or via electronic or print advertisements, including Facebook and Google—social media and advertising—university electronic newsletters, printed posters, mailbox drops, and newspapers. Participants recruited from GP invitation letters had an appointment booked with their GP for eligibility screening. Those recruited from other methods were sent an information pack to seek approval to participate from their own GP. The total number and source of enquiries were categorized according to eligibility and subsequent completion of steps to enrolment. Cost data and details of recruitment strategies were recorded.
From 1181 enquiries in total from all strategies, 250 (21.17%) participants were randomized. A total of 5311 invitation letters were sent from 12 GP practices—16 participating GPs. A total of 131 patients enquired with 68 participants randomized (68/74 of those eligible, 92%). The other recruitment methods yielded the remaining 182 randomized participants. Enrolment from print media was 26% of enquiries, from electronic media was 20%, and from other methods was 3%. Across all strategies the average cost of recruitment was Australian Dollar (AUD) $139 per person. The least expensive modality was electronic (AUD $37), largely due to a free feature story on one university Web home page, despite Facebook advertising costing AUD $945 per enrolment. The most expensive was print media at AUD $213 and GP letters at AUD $145 per enrolment.
The research indicated that free electronic media was the most cost-effective strategy, with GP letters the least expensive of the paid strategies in comparison to the other strategies. This study is an important contribution for future research into efficacy, translation, and implementation of cost-effective programs for the prevention of weight gain in young adults. Procedural frameworks for recruitment protocols are required, along with systematic reporting of recruitment strategies to reduce unnecessary expenditure and allow for valuable public health prevention programs to go beyond the research setting.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12612000924853; https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=362872 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6YpNfv1gI).
recruitment; young adults; mHealth; eHealth; weight gain prevention; external validity; cost
Aboriginal Australians are more likely than other Australians to cycle in and out of prison on remand or by serving multiple short sentences—a form of serial incarceration and institutionalisation. This cycle contributes to the over-representation of Aboriginal Australians in prison and higher rates of recidivism. Our research examined how primary health care can better meet the health care and social support needs of Aboriginal Australians transitioning from prison to the community.
Purposive sampling was used to identify 30 interviewees. Twelve interviews were with Aboriginal people who had been in prison; ten were with family members and eight with community service providers who worked with former inmates. Thematic analysis was conducted on the interviewees’ description of their experience of services provided to prisoners both during incarceration and on transition to the community.
Interviewees believed that effective access to primary health care on release and during transition was positively influenced by providing appropriate healthcare to inmates in custody and by properly planning for their release. Further, interviewees felt that poor communication between health care providers in custody and in the community prior to an inmate’s release, contributed to a lack of comprehensive management of chronic conditions. System level barriers to timely communication between in-custody and community providers included inmates being placed on remand which contributed to uncertainty regarding release dates and therefore difficulties planning for release, cycling in and out of prison on short sentences and being released to freedom without access to support services.
For Aboriginal former inmates and family members, release from prison was a period of significant emotional stress and commonly involved managing complex needs. To support their transition into the community, Aboriginal former inmates would benefit from immediate access to culturally- responsive community -primary health care services. At present, however, pre-release planning is not always available, especially for Aboriginal inmates who are more likely to be on remand or in custody for less than six months.
Primary health care; Prisoners; Criminal justice system; Family practice; Aboriginal Australians
Despite the widespread availability of clinical guidelines, considerable gaps remain between the care that is recommended (appropriate care) and the care provided. This protocol describes a research methodology to develop clinical indicators for appropriate care for common paediatric conditions.
Methods and analysis
We will identify conditions amenable to population-level appropriateness of care research and develop clinical indicators for each condition. Candidate conditions have been identified from published research; burden of disease, prevalence and frequency of presentation data; and quality of care priority lists. Clinical indicators will be developed through searches of national and international guidelines, and formatted with explicit criteria for inclusion, exclusion, time frame and setting. Experts will review the indicators using a wiki-based approach and modified Delphi process. A formative evaluation of the wiki process will be undertaken.
Ethics and dissemination
Human Research Ethics Committee approvals have been received from Sydney Children's Hospital Network, Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, and the Women's and Children's Health Network (South Australia). Applications are under review with Macquarie University and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. We will submit the results of the study to relevant journals and offer national and international presentations.
Australian and international clinical practice guidelines are available for common paediatric conditions. Yet there is evidence that there are substantial variations between the guidelines, recommendations (appropriate care) and the care delivered. This paper describes a study protocol to determine the appropriateness of the healthcare delivered to Australian children for 16 common paediatric conditions in acute and primary healthcare settings.
Methods and analysis
A random sample of 6000–8000 medical records representing a cross-section of the Australian paediatric population will be reviewed for appropriateness of care against a set of indicators within three Australian states (New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia) using multistage, stratified sampling. Medical records of children aged <16 years who presented with at least one of the study conditions during 2012 and 2013 will be reviewed.
Ethics and dissemination
Human Research Ethics Committee approvals have been received from the Sydney Children's Hospital Network, Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service and Women's and Children's Hospital Network (South Australia). An application is under review for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. The authors will submit the results of the study to relevant journals and offer oral presentations to researchers, clinicians and policymakers at national and international conferences.
Referral for both lifestyle and surgical interventions are recommended as part of the clinical management of obesity in general practice. However, current practice falls short of this. This qualitative study aimed to describe the factors influencing general practitioners’ (GPs) referral intentions for their obese patients.
Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 24 GPs from four geographically different areas in New South Wales, Australia about the management of their obese patients. A qualitative analysis was applied using inductive thematic analysis.
The predominant factors influencing GPs’ referral were their own attitudes and experience, and their patient’s motivation. Lifestyle intervention Referrals were usually initiated by GPs and influenced by their patients and the local health system. Referrals to conduct bariatric surgery were frequently initiated by the patient and influenced by GPs’ limited previous experience, patients’ expectations and ability to pay, as well as professional and legal issues. There was no strong link between referral and the remoteness of areas or the availability of surgical referral services.
There were differences between GPs reported referral behaviour for lifestyle and surgical interventions. GPs’ attitudes to referral were often formed by their limited case experience rather than by a review of more systematic evidence, especially for surgical interventions. These patterns may be improved by educating and better communicating with GPs about the outcomes for their patients when they are referred.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12875-015-0262-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
GP; Obesity; Referral; Bariatric surgery
Enhancing individual’s health literacy for weight loss is important in addressing the increasing burden of chronic disease due to overweight and obesity. We conducted a systematic review and narrative synthesis to determine the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions aimed at improving adults’ knowledge and skills for weight loss in primary health care.
The literature search included English-language papers published between 1990 and 30 June 2013 reporting research conducted within Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries. Twelve electronic databases and five journals were searched and this was supplemented by hand searching. The study population included adults (≥18 years old) with a body mass index (BMI) ≥25 kg/m2 and without chronic disease at baseline. We included intervention studies with a minimum 6 month follow-up. Three reviewers independently extracted data and two reviewers independently assessed study quality by using predefined criteria. The main outcome was a change in measured weight and/or BMI over 6 or 12 months.
Thirteen intervention studies, all targeting diet, physical activity and behaviour change to improve individuals’ knowledge and/or skills for weight loss, were included with 2,089 participants. Most (9/13) of these studies were of a ‘weak’ quality. Seven studies provided training to the intervention deliverers. The majority of the studies (11/13) showed significant reduction in weight and/or BMI in at least one follow-up visit. There were no consistent associations in outcomes related to the mode of intervention delivery, the number or type of providers involved or the intensity of the intervention.
There was evidence for the effectiveness of interventions that focussed on improving knowledge and skills (health literacy) for weight loss. However, there was insufficient evidence to determine relative effectiveness of individual interventions. The lack of studies measuring socio-economic status needs to be addressed in future research as the rates of obesity are high in disadvantaged population groups.
Health literacy; Obesity; Systematic review; Intervention research; Primary health care
Socioeconomically disadvantaged adults are both more likely to be obese and have lower levels of health literacy. Our trial evaluates the implementation and effectiveness of primary care nurses acting as prevention navigators to support obese patients with low health literacy to lose weight.
A pragmatic cluster randomised trial will be conducted. Twenty practices in socioeconomically deprived areas, 10 each in Sydney and Adelaide, will be recruited and randomised to intervention and control groups. Twenty to 40 eligible obese patients aged 40–70 years with a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 and with low health literacy will be enrolled per practice. The intervention is based on the ‘5As’ of the chronic disease model approach – Assess, Advise, Agree, Assist and Arrange – and the recommendations of the 2013 Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia. In the intervention practices, patients will be invited to attend a health check with the prevention navigator who will assess the patient’s risk and provide brief advice, assistance with goal setting and referral navigation. Provider training and educational meetings will be held. The providers’ attitudes to obesity, confidence in treating obesity and preventive care they provide to obese people with low health literacy will be evaluated through questionnaires and interviews. Patients’ self-assessment of lifestyle risk factors, perception of preventive care received in general practice, health-related quality of life, and health literacy will be assessed in telephone interviews. Patients’ anthropometric measures will be recorded and their health service usage will be determined via linkage to the Australian government-held medical and pharmaceutical data.
Our trial will provide evidence for the effectiveness of practice nurses as prevention navigators to support better weight management for obese patients with low health literacy.
This trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12614001021662). Date registered 24/09/2014.
Obesity; Primary care nurses; Prevention navigation; Health literacy; Weight management
People with limited health literacy are more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged and have risk factors for preventable chronic diseases. General practice is the ideal setting to address these inequalities however these patients engage less in preventive activities and experience difficulties navigating health services.
This study aimed to compare primary care patients with and without sufficient health literacy in terms of their lifestyle risk factors, and explore factors associated with receiving advice and referral for these risk factors from their GPs.
A mailed survey of 739 patients from 30 general practices across four Australian states was conducted in 2012. Health literacy was measured using the Health Literacy Management Scale. Patients with a mean score of <4 within any domain were defined as having insufficient health literacy. Multilevel logistic regression was used to adjust for clustering of patients within practices.
Patients with insufficient health literacy (n = 351; 48%) were more likely to report being overweight or obese, and less likely to exercise adequately. Having insufficient health literacy increased a patient’s chance of receiving advice on diet, physical activity or weight management, and referral to and attendance at lifestyle modification programs. Not speaking English at home; being overweight or obese; and attending a small sized practice also increased patients’ chances of receiving advice on these lifestyle risks. Few (5%, n = 37) of all patients reported being referred to lifestyle modification program and of those around three-quarters had insufficient health literacy. Overweight or obese patients were more likely to be referred to lifestyle modification programs and patients not in paid employment were more likely to be referred to and attend lifestyle programs.
Patients with insufficient health literacy were more likely to report receiving advice and being referred by GPs to attend lifestyle modification. Although the number of patients referred from this sample was very low, these findings are positive in that they indicate that GPs are identifying patients with low health literacy and appropriately referring them for assistance with lifestyle modification. Future research should measure the effectiveness of these lifestyle programs for patients with low health literacy.
Health literacy; Obesity; Nutrition; Physical activity; Weight; Primary health care; Behavioural risk factors
The role of primary care in addressing lifestyle behaviours associated with chronic disease has developed incrementally over the past decade, and has led to greater calls for collaboration with population health.
Major obstacles exist at the practice, local area, state and national levels to strengthen collaboration; strategies to address these obstacles have been identified as part of a joint public health and general practice framework.
These obstacles have been especially evident for disadvantaged groups who receive ‘inverse preventive care’ from poorly resourced primary care and public health services in local disadvantaged areas.
Health reform has created opportunities for extensive change. This requires not only good will, but also a mechanism to increase joint planning with the aim of preventing chronic diseases, improving population health and reducing inequities.
Why this matters to us
We have a commitment to achieving improved public health and health equity through primary care. Mark chaired the joint committee which brought together the key organisations for general practice and public health between 2001 and 2004 and has conducted research on and contributed to development of guidelines for the prevention of chronic diseases in primary care. Elizabeth co-led the primary health care committee of the National Health Inequalities Research Collaboration and initiatives to improve primary health care as a strategy to implement health equity policy at state government levels.
In Australia, partnership working between public health and primary healthcare for the prevention and management of chronic disease has been developing incrementally since the 2003 consensus statement developed by the Joint Advisory Group of the General Practice Partnership Advisory Council and the National Public Health Partnership Group.
Australia's first national primary healthcare strategy (2010) provides a new opportunity to further develop this partnership, including multidisciplinary team-working in general practice for chronic disease prevention, and a new primary care organisation to oversee population health planning and health promotion. The needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups will be a central focus of the new planning structures. However, major barriers continue to frustrate collaborative population based planning and service development.
Conclusion The jury is still out on how effective the partnership between state funded public health service and the new nationally funded primary care organisations will be. There is significant overlap in their functions, but few formal mechanisms for collaboration have been as yet established.
chronic disease; preventive medicine; primary health care; public health
To describe and evaluate the effectiveness of tailored intervention on village doctor’s use of electronic health records (EHR) in rural community health services in less developed areas.
Ten townships were selected. In each township, two similar health service station (CHSS) were chosen. One was randomly as allocated to the intervention group, the other to the control group. Over six monthly visits, a structured on-site intervention including education, supervision and technical support was provided to village doctors in the intervention group tailored to their needs. The Control group received no visits. A sample of 20 families from each CHSS was randomly chosen. An online evaluation of each family’s EHR was conducted by the investigators at baseline and at the end of the 6 month intervention.
In the intervention group, the proportion of households with complete records increased: basic personal information from 2.6% to 32.5%, (Z = -15.099, P = 0.000) and health education records from 0.3% to 1.6% (Z = -4.459, P = 0.000). Similarly at baseline none of the 80 elders had her records. This increased in the intervention group to 16.4% recorded in part and 37.0% in full (Z = -7.480, P = 0.000). The proportion of complete health management records for children aged 1 to 2 years and 3 to 6 years increased from 28.6% and 33.3% to 66.7% and 74.2% respectively (the difference of children group 3 to 6 years of age was statistically significant, Z = -3.860, p = 0.000). The proportion of complete basic clinic records in the intervention group increased from 7.6% to 13.9% (Z = -3.252, P = 0.001). There were no significant differences in the control group.
The pilot study showed that a on-site education, supervision and technical support tailored to their needs was associated with improvements in village doctors use of EHR. This model is worthy of implementation in other rural areas.
EHR; Village doctors; Pilot study; Personalized intervention; Rural areas
To evaluate the impact of a model of rural community health service (CHS) on the use and acceptability of primary healthcare services.
Two adjacent rural counties in China.
5842 residents in 2009 and 3807 in 2010 from 980 households in 7 intervention townships and 49 villages; 2232 residents in 2009 and 2315 in 2010 from 628 households in 3 comparison townships and 9 villages. All residents were approached to participate, with no significant differences in age or sex between groups.
Multilevel intervention in 2009 including training rural practitioners, encouraging clinic improvements, providing clinical guidelines, standards and subsidies.
Surveys of community members from randomly sampled households in 2009 and 2010.
Primary outcome measures
Satisfaction with and utilisation of outpatient and public health services.
Factor analysis confirmed two components of satisfaction. Univariate and multilevel analysis was used.
Satisfaction scores for intervention county respondents increased from 21.4 (95% CI 21.1 to 21.7) to 22.1 (95% CI 21.7 to 22.4) with no change in comparison area. In multilevel analysis, satisfaction with patient-centred care was associated with chronic disease, shorter waiting times and county. Satisfaction with clinic environment and cost was associated with female gender, shorter waiting times but not county. The proportion of children receiving immunisation in intervention village clinics increased from 42.5% (95% CI 27.9% to 47.1%) to 59.2% (95% CI 53.8% to 64.6%) whereas this decreased in comparison villages (16.5%; 95% CI 10.3% to 22.7% to 6.0%; 95% CI 1.3% to 10.7%). Antenatal visits increased in intervention villages (from 69.0%, 95% CI 65.8% to 73.1% to 75.8%, 95% CI 72.2% to 79.4%) with no change in comparison villages.
Introduction of a CHS model adapted to economically less-developed rural areas was associated with some improvements in satisfaction with care and use of some village-based public health services. Further research is needed to determine its public health impact and application to other areas.
Primary Care; Public Health
Health Impact Assessment (HIA) involves assessing how proposals may alter the determinants of health prior to implementation and recommends changes to enhance positive and mitigate negative impacts. HIAs growing use needs to be supported by a strong evidence base, both to validate the value of its application and to make its application more robust. We have carried out the first systematic empirical study of the influence of HIA on decision-making and implementation of proposals in Australia and New Zealand. This paper focuses on identifying whether and how HIAs changed decision-making and implementation and impacts that participants report following involvement in HIAs.
We used a two-step process first surveying 55 HIAs followed by 11 in-depth case studies. Data gathering methods included questionnaires with follow-up interview, semi-structured interviews and document collation. We carried out deductive and inductive qualitative content analyses of interview transcripts and documents as well as simple descriptive statistics.
We found that most HIAs are effective in some way. HIAs are often directly effective in changing, influencing, broadening areas considered and in some cases having immediate impact on decisions. Even when HIAs are reported to have no direct effect on a decision they are often still effective in influencing decision-making processes and the stakeholders involved in them. HIA participants identify changes in relationships, improved understanding of the determinants of health and positive working relationships as major and sustainable impacts of their involvement.
This study clearly demonstrates direct and indirect effectiveness of HIA influencing decision making in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that public health leaders and policy makers should be confident in promoting the use of HIA and investing in building capacity to undertake high quality HIAs. New findings about the value HIA stakeholders put on indirect impacts such as learning and relationship building suggest HIA has a role both as a technical tool that makes predictions of potential impacts of a policy, program or project and as a mechanism for developing relationships with and influencing other sectors. Accordingly when evaluating the effectiveness of HIAs we need to look beyond the direct impacts on decisions.
Health impact assessment; Effectiveness; Evaluation
Refugees have many complex health care needs which should be addressed by the primary health care services, both on their arrival in resettlement countries and in their transition to long-term care. The aim of this narrative synthesis is to identify the components of primary health care service delivery models for such populations which have been effective in improving access, quality and coordination of care.
A systematic review of the literature, including published systematic reviews, was undertaken. Studies between 1990 and 2011 were identified by searching Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Australian Public Affairs Information Service – Health, Health and Society Database, Multicultural Australian and Immigration Studies and Google Scholar. A limited snowballing search of the reference lists of all included studies was also undertaken. A stakeholder advisory committee and international advisers provided papers from grey literature. Only English language studies of evaluated primary health care models of care for refugees in developed countries of resettlement were included.
Twenty-five studies met the inclusion criteria for this review of which 15 were Australian and 10 overseas models. These could be categorised into six themes: service context, clinical model, workforce capacity, cost to clients, health and non-health services. Access was improved by multidisciplinary staff, use of interpreters and bilingual staff, no-cost or low-cost services, outreach services, free transport to and from appointments, longer clinic opening hours, patient advocacy, and use of gender-concordant providers. These services were affordable, appropriate and acceptable to the target groups. Coordination between the different health care services and services responding to the social needs of clients was improved through case management by specialist workers. Quality of care was improved by training in cultural sensitivity and appropriate use of interpreters.
The elements of models most frequently associated with improved access, coordination and quality of care were case management, use of specialist refugee health workers, interpreters and bilingual staff. These findings have implications for workforce planning and training.
Access; Coordination; Health care models; Primary health care; Quality of care; Refugee; Migrant; Immigrant; Health services evaluation
The process of initiating and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviours is complex, includes a number of distinct phases and is not static. Theoretical models of behaviour change consider psychological constructs such as intention and self efficacy but do not clearly consider the role of stress or psychological distress. General practice based interventions addressing lifestyle behaviours have been demonstrated to be feasible and effective however it is not clear whether general practitioners (GPs) take psychological health into consideration when discussing lifestyle behaviours. This qualitative study explores GPs’ and patients’ perspectives about the relationship between external stressors, psychological distress and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviours.
Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 16 patients and 5 GPs. Transcripts from the interviews were thematically analysed and a conceptual model developed to explain the relationship between external stressors, psychological distress and healthly lifestyle behaviours.
Participants were motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle however they described a range of external factors that impacted on behaviour in both positive and negative ways, either directly or via their impact on psychological distress. The impact of external factors was moderated by coping strategies, beliefs, habits and social support. In some cases the process of changing or maintaining healthy behaviour also caused distress. The concept of a threshold level of distress was evident in the data with patients and GPs describing a certain level of distress required before it negatively influenced behaviour.
Maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviours is complex and constantly under challenge from external stressors. Practitioners can assist patients with maintaining healthy behaviour by providing targeted support to moderate the impact of external stressors.
Outcomes for colorectal cancer patients vary significantly. Compared to other countries, Australia has a good record with patient outcomes, yet there is little information available on the referral pathway. This paper explores the views of Australian patients and their experiences of referral for colorectal cancer treatment following diagnosis; the aim was to improve our understanding of the referral pathway and guide the development of future interventions.
A purposive sampling strategy was used, recruiting 29 patients representing urban and rural areas from 3 Australian states who participated in 4 focus groups. Seven patients provided individual interviews to supplement the data. Recordings were transcribed verbatim, data was coded with NVivo software and analysed thematically before deductive analysis.
Four aspects of the referral process were identified by patients, namely detection/diagnosis, referral for initial treatment/specialist care, the roles of the GP/specialist, and the patient’s perceived involvement in the process. The referral process was characterised by a lack of patient involvement, with few examples of shared decision-making and few examples of limited choice. However, patients did not always feel they had the knowledge to make informed decisions. Information exchange was highly valued by patients when it occurred, and it increased their satisfaction with the process. Other factors mediating care included the use of the public versus private health system, the quality of information exchange (GP to specialist and GP to patient), continuity of care between GP and specialist, and the extent of information provision when patients moved between specialist and GP care.
Patients described poor GP continuity, ad hoc organisational systems and limited information exchange, at both interpersonal and inter-organisational levels, all leading to sub-optimal care. Implementation of a system of information feedback to GPs and engagement with them might improve information exchange for patients, enabling them to be more involved in improved referral outcomes.
Colorectal neoplasm; Referral and consultation; Patients; Qualitative research
The aims of this study were to explore the health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in a large sample of Australian chronically-ill patients (type 2 diabetes and/or hypertension/ischaemic heart disease), to investigate the impact of characteristics of patients and their general practitioners on their HRQoL and to examine clinically significant differences in HRQoL among males and females.
This was a cross-sectional study with 193 general practitioners and 2181 of their chronically-ill patients aged 18 years or more using the standard Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) version 2. SF-12 physical component score (PCS-12) and mental component score (MCS-12) were derived using the standard US algorithm. Multilevel regression analysis (patients at level 1 and general practitioners at level 2) was applied to relate PCS-12 and MCS-12 to patient and general practitioner (GP) characteristics.
Employment was likely to have a clinically significant larger positive effect on HRQoL of males (regression coefficient (B) (PCS-12) = 7.29, P < 0.001, effect size = 1.23 and B (MCS-12) = 3.40, P < 0.01, effect size = 0.55) than that of females (B(PCS-12) = 4.05, P < 0.001, effect size = 0.78 and B (MCS-12) = 1.16, P > 0.05, effect size = 0.16). There was a clinically significant difference in HRQoL among age groups. Younger men (< 39 years) were likely to have better physical health than older men (> 59 years, B = −5.82, P < 0.05, effect size = 0.66); older women tended to have better mental health (B = 5.62, P < 0.001, effect size = 0.77) than younger women. Chronically-ill women smokers reported clinically significant (B = −3.99, P < 0.001, effect size = 0.66) poorer mental health than women who were non-smokers. Female GPs were more likely to examine female patients than male patients (33% vs. 15%, P < 0.001) and female patients attending female GPs reported better physical health (B = 1.59, P < 0.05, effect size = 0.30).
Some of the associations between patient characteristics and SF-12 physical and/or mental component scores were different for men and women. This finding underlines the importance of considering these factors in the management of chronically-ill patients in general practice. The results suggest that chronically ill women attempting to quit smoking may need more psychological support. More quantitative studies are needed to determine the association between GP gender and patient gender in relation to HRQoL.
Quality of life; Patient and physician characteristics; SF-12 version 2; Physical component score; Mental component score; Multilevel regression analysis
Despite being at high risk, disadvantaged patients may be less likely to receive preventive care in general practice. This study aimed to explore self-reported preventive care received from general practitioners and the factors associated with this by healthy New South Wales (NSW) residents aged 45–74 years.
A self-completed questionnaire was sent to 100,000 NSW residents in the 45 and Up cohort study. There was a 60% response rate. After exclusions there were 39,964 participants aged 45–74 years who did not report cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Dichotomised outcome variables were participant report of having had a clinical assessment of their blood pressure (BP), blood cholesterol (BC) or blood glucose (BG), or received advice to eat less high fat food, eat more fruit and vegetables or be more physically active from their GP in the last 12 months. Independent variables included socio-demographic, lifestyle risk factors, health status, access to health care and confidence in self-management.
Most respondents reported having had their BP (90.6%), BC (73.9%) or BG (69.4%) assessed. Fewer reported being given health advice to (a)eat less high fat food (26.6%), (b) eat more fruit and vegetables (15.5%) or (c) do more physical activity (19.9%). The patterns of association were consistent with recognised need: participants who were older, less well educated or overweight were more likely to report clinical assessments; participants who were overseas born, of lower educational attainment, less confident in their own self-management, reported insufficient physical activity or were overweight were more likely to report receiving advice. However current smokers were less likely to report clinical assessments; and rural and older participants were less likely to receive diet or physical activity advice.
This study demonstrated a gap between reported clinical assessments and preventive advice. There was evidence for inverse care for rural participants and smokers, who despite being at higher risk of health problems, were less likely to report receiving preventive care. This suggests the need for greater effort to promote preventive care for these groups in Australian general practice.
Previous research suggests that lifestyle intervention for the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are effective, however little is known about factors affecting participation in such programs. This study aims to explore factors influencing levels of participation in a lifestyle modification program conducted as part of a cluster randomized controlled trial of CVD prevention in primary care.
This concurrent mixed methods study used data from the intervention arm of a cluster RCT which recruited 30 practices through two rural and three urban primary care organizations. Practices were randomly allocated to intervention (n = 16) and control (n = 14) groups. In each practice up to 160 eligible patients aged between 40 and 64 years old, were invited to participate. Intervention practice staff were trained in lifestyle assessment and counseling and referred high risk patients to a lifestyle modification program (LMP) consisting of two individual and six group sessions over a nine month period. Data included a patient survey, clinical audit, practice survey on capacity for preventive care, referral and attendance records at the LMP and qualitative interviews with Intervention Officers facilitating the LMP. Multi-level logistic regression modelling was used to examine independent predictors of attendance at the LMP, supplemented with qualitative data from interviews with Intervention Officers facilitating the program.
A total of 197 individuals were referred to the LMP (63% of those eligible). Over a third of patients (36.5%) referred to the LMP did not attend any sessions, with 59.4% attending at least half of the planned sessions. The only independent predictors of attendance at the program were employment status - not working (OR: 2.39 95% CI 1.15-4.94) and having high psychological distress (OR: 2.17 95% CI: 1.10-4.30). Qualitative data revealed that physical access to the program was a barrier, while GP/practice endorsement of the program and flexibility in program delivery facilitated attendance.
Barriers to attendance at a LMP for CVD prevention related mainly to external factors including work commitments and poor physical access to the programs rather than an individuals’ health risk profile or readiness to change. Improving physical access and offering flexibility in program delivery may enhance future attendance. Finally, associations between psychological distress and attendance rates warrant further investigation.
Preventive health care; Lifestyle modification; Attendance rates; Reach; Primary care; Family practice; Chronic disease prevention
Interest in how to implement evidence-based practices into routine health care has never been greater. Primary care faces challenges in managing the increasing burden of chronic disease in an ageing population. Reliable prescriptions for translating knowledge into practice, however, remain elusive, despite intense research and publication activity. This study seeks to explore this dilemma in general practice by challenging the current way of thinking about healthcare improvement and asking what can be learned by looking at change through a complexity lens.
This paper reports the local level of an embedded case study of organisational change for better chronic illness care over more than a decade. We used interviews, document review and direct observation to explore how improved chronic illness care developed in one practice. This formed a critical case to compare, using pattern matching logic, to the common prescription for local implementation of best evidence and a rival explanation drawn from complexity sciences interpreted through modern sociology and psychology.
The practice changed continuously over more than a decade to deliver better chronic illness care in line with research findings and policy initiatives – re-designing care processes, developing community linkages, supporting patient self-management, using guidelines and clinical information systems, and integrating nurses into the practice team. None of these improvements was designed and implemented according to an explicit plan in response to a documented gap in chronic disease care. The process that led to high quality chronic illness care exhibited clear complexity elements of co-evolution, non-linearity, self-organisation, emergence and edge of chaos dynamics in a network of agents and relationships where a stable yet evolving way of organizing emerged from local level communicative interaction, power relating and values based choices.
The current discourse of implementation science as planned system change did not match organisational reality in this critical case of improvement in general practice. Complexity concepts translated in human terms as complex responsive processes of relating fit the pattern of change more accurately. They do not provide just another fashionable blueprint for change but inform how researchers, policymakers and providers participate in improving healthcare.
General practice; Quality improvement; Complexity; Organisational change
The risk factors for chronic disease, smoking, poor nutrition, hazardous alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and weight (SNAPW) are common in primary health care (PHC) affording opportunity for preventive interventions. Community nurses are an important component of PHC in Australia. However there has been little research evaluating the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions in routine community nursing practice. This study aimed to address this gap in our knowledge.
The study was a quasi-experimental trial involving four generalist community nursing (CN) services in New South Wales, Australia. Two services were randomly allocated to an ‘early intervention’ and two to a ‘late intervention’ group. Nurses in the early intervention group received training and support in identifying risk factors and offering brief lifestyle intervention for clients. Those in the late intervention group provided usual care for the first 6 months and then received training. Clients aged 30–80 years who were referred to the services between September 2009 and September 2010 were recruited prior to being seen by the nurse and baseline self-reported data collected. Data on their SNAPW risk factors, readiness to change these behaviours and advice and referral received about their risk factors in the previous 3 months were collected at baseline, 3 and 6 months. Analysis compared changes using univariate and multilevel regression techniques.
804 participants were recruited from 2361 (34.1%) eligible clients. The proportion of clients who recalled receiving dietary or physical activity advice increased between baseline and 3 months in the early intervention group (from 12.9 to 23.3% and 12.3 to 19.1% respectively) as did the proportion who recalled being referred for dietary or physical activity interventions (from 9.5 to 15.6% and 5.8 to 21.0% respectively). There was no change in the late intervention group. There a shift towards greater readiness to change in those who were physically inactive in the early but not the comparison group. Clients in both groups reported being more physically active and eating more fruit and vegetables but there were no significant differences between groups at 6 months.
The study demonstrated that although the intervention was associated with increases in advice and referral for diet or physical activity and readiness for change in physical activity, this did not translate into significant changes in lifestyle behaviours or weight. This suggests a need to facilitate referral to more intensive long-term interventions for clients with risk factors identified by primary health care nurses.
Primary health care; Lifestyle behaviours; Smoking; Nutrition; Alcohol; Physical activity; Community nursing
This paper presents the evaluation of “Moving On”, a generic self-management program for people with a chronic illness developed by Arthritis NSW. The program aims to help participants identify their need for behaviour change and acquire the knowledge and skills to implement changes that promote their health and quality of life.
A prospective pragmatic randomised controlled trial involving two group programs in community settings: the intervention program (Moving On) and a control program (light physical activity). Participants were recruited by primary health care providers across the north-west region of metropolitan Sydney, Australia between June 2009 and October 2010. Patient outcomes were self-reported via pre- and post-program surveys completed at the time of enrolment and sixteen weeks after program commencement. Primary outcomes were change in self-efficacy (Self-efficacy for Managing Chronic Disease 6-Item Scale), self-management knowledge and behaviour and perceived health status (Self-Rated Health Scale and the Health Distress Scale).
A total of 388 patient referrals were received, of whom 250 (64.4%) enrolled in the study. Three patients withdrew prior to allocation. 25 block randomisations were performed by a statistician external to the research team: 123 patients were allocated to the intervention program and 124 were allocated to the control program.
97 (78.9%) of the intervention participants commenced their program. The overall attrition rate of 40.5% included withdrawals from the study and both programs. 24.4% of participants withdrew from the intervention program but not the study and 22.6% withdrew from the control program but not the study. A total of 62 patients completed the intervention program and follow-up evaluation survey and 77 patients completed the control program and follow-up evaluation survey.
At 16 weeks follow-up there was no significant difference between intervention and control groups in self-efficacy; however, there was an increase in self-efficacy from baseline to follow-up for the intervention participants (t=−1.948, p=0.028). There were no significant differences in self-rated health or health distress scores between groups at follow-up, with both groups reporting a significant decrease in health distress scores. There was no significant difference between or within groups in self-management knowledge and stage of change of behaviours at follow-up. Intervention group attenders had significantly higher physical activity (t=−4.053, p=0.000) and nutrition scores (t=2.315, p= 0.01) at follow-up; however, these did not remain significant after adjustment for covariates. At follow-up, significantly more participants in the control group (20.8%) indicated that they did not have a self-management plan compared to those in the intervention group (8.8%) (X2=4.671, p=0.031). There were no significant changes in other self-management knowledge areas and behaviours after adjusting for covariates at follow-up.
The study produced mixed findings. Differences between groups as allocated were diluted by the high proportion of patients not completing the program. Further monitoring and evaluation are needed of the impact and cost effectiveness of the program.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12609000298213
Self-management; Primary health care; Self-efficacy; Chronic illness
Access is central to the performance of health care systems around the world. However, access to health care remains a complex notion as exemplified in the variety of interpretations of the concept across authors. The aim of this paper is to suggest a conceptualisation of access to health care describing broad dimensions and determinants that integrate demand and supply-side-factors and enabling the operationalisation of access to health care all along the process of obtaining care and benefiting from the services.
A synthesis of the published literature on the conceptualisation of access has been performed. The most cited frameworks served as a basis to develop a revised conceptual framework.
Here, we view access as the opportunity to identify healthcare needs, to seek healthcare services, to reach, to obtain or use health care services, and to actually have a need for services fulfilled. We conceptualise five dimensions of accessibility: 1) Approachability; 2) Acceptability; 3) Availability and accommodation; 4) Affordability; 5) Appropriateness. In this framework, five corresponding abilities of populations interact with the dimensions of accessibility to generate access. Five corollary dimensions of abilities include: 1) Ability to perceive; 2) Ability to seek; 3) Ability to reach; 4) Ability to pay; and 5) Ability to engage.
This paper explains the comprehensiveness and dynamic nature of this conceptualisation of access to care and identifies relevant determinants that can have an impact on access from a multilevel perspective where factors related to health systems, institutions, organisations and providers are considered with factors at the individual, household, community, and population levels.
Access to healthcare; Accessibility; Utilisation of health services; Availability
Lifestyle risk factors like smoking, nutrition, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity (SNAP) are the main behavioural risk factors for chronic disease. Primary health care is an appropriate setting to address these risk factors in individuals. Generalist community health nurses (GCHNs) are uniquely placed to provide lifestyle interventions as they see clients in their homes over a period of time. The aim of the paper is to examine the impact of a service-level intervention on the risk factor management practices of GCHNs.
The trial used a quasi-experimental design involving four generalist community nursing services in NSW, Australia. The services were randomly allocated to either an intervention group or control group. Nurses in the intervention group were provided with training and support in the provision of brief lifestyle assessments and interventions. The control group provided usual care. A sample of 129 GCHNs completed surveys at baseline, 6 and 12 months to examine changes in their practices and levels of confidence related to the management of SNAP risk factors. Six semi-structured interviews and four focus groups were conducted among the intervention group to explore the feasibility of incorporating the intervention into everyday practice.
Nurses in the intervention group became more confident in assessment and intervention over the three time points compared to their control group peers. Nurses in the intervention group reported assessing physical activity, weight and nutrition more frequently, as well as providing more brief interventions for physical activity, weight management and smoking cessation. There was little change in referral rates except for an improvement in weight management related referrals. Nurses’ perception of the importance of ‘client and system-related’ barriers to risk factor management diminished over time.
This study shows that the intervention was associated with positive changes in self-reported lifestyle risk factor management practices of GCHNs. Barriers to referral remained. The service model needs to be adapted to sustain these changes and enhance referral.
Primary health care; Community nursing; Lifestyle risk factor management; Barriers
There are significant gaps in the implementation and uptake of evidence-based guideline recommendations for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes in Australian general practice. This study protocol describes the methodology for a cluster randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a model that aims to improve the implementation of these guidelines in Australian general practice developed by a collaboration between researchers, non-government organisations, and the profession.
We hypothesise that the intervention will alter the behaviour of clinicians and patients resulting in improvements of recording of lifestyle and physiological risk factors (by 20%) and increased adherence to guideline recommendations for: the management of CVD and diabetes risk factors (by 20%); and lifestyle and physiological risk factors of patients at risk (by 5%). Thirty-two general practices will be randomised in a 1:1 allocation to receive either the intervention or continue with usual care, after stratification by state. The intervention will be delivered through: small group education; audit of patient records to determine preventive care; and practice facilitation visits adapted to the needs of the practices. Outcome data will be extracted from electronic medical records and patient questionnaires, and qualitative evaluation from provider and patient interviews.
We plan to disseminate study findings widely and directly inform implementation strategies by governments, professional bodies, and non-government organisations including the partner organisations.
Primary care; Family medicine; Guidelines; Preventive care; Cardiovascular disease