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Assessing physical activity in general practice: a disconnect between clinical practice and public health?


Winzenberg, T and Reid, P and Shaw, K, Assessing physical activity in general practice: a disconnect between clinical practice and public health?, British Journal of General Practice, 59, (568) pp. 850-855. ISSN 0960-1643 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2009 British Journal of General Practice.

DOI: doi:10.3399/bjgp09X472818


Background GPs comply poorly to public health recommendations to routinely assess their patients' physical activity. The reasons for this disconnect between recommended practice and GPs' actual practice are unclear. Aim To investigate GPs' perceptions of assessing physical activity, and to explore how GPs assess their patients' physical activity. Design of the study Qualitative study. Setting General practice. Method Semi-structured interviews were performed with 15 randomly selected southern Tasmanian GPs, with stratification to include GPs with a range of demographic characteristics. Each interview was recorded, transcribed in full, and analysed using an iterative thematic approach to identify major themes. Results GPs recognised the importance of assessing physical activity, but rather than assessing every patient, they target at-risk patients and those with conditions likely to benefit from increased physical activity. Depth of assessment and GPs' definition of sufficient physical activity varied according to the clinical and social context of each patient. Major barriers were the time needed to perform an adequate assessment and lack of time to deal with physical inactivity in patients once it was identified. Conclusion GPs' assessment of physical activity is a complex and highly individualised process that cannot be divorced from the issue of managing physical inactivity once it is identified. Expectations that GPs will assess physical activity levels in all their patients are unlikely to be met. This must be taken into account when developing strategies to improve physical activity assessment in general practice, and should be considered in policy decisions about approaches to take to improve physical activity levels at a population level.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:assessment; general practice; physical activity; primary health care
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Cardiovascular medicine and haematology
Research Field:Cardiology (incl. cardiovascular diseases)
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Preventive medicine
UTAS Author:Winzenberg, T (Professor Tania Winzenberg)
UTAS Author:Reid, P (Dr Phillip Reid)
UTAS Author:Shaw, K (Dr Kelly Shaw)
ID Code:59128
Year Published:2009
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2009-11-19
Last Modified:2017-05-25

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