The 45 year old health check (MBS item 717) for patients aged 45–49
years was introduced in 2006. This study evaluated its impact on
preventive care and patient reported risk factors.
A quantitative and qualitative study was conducted in eight general
practices in Sydney, New South Wales. It involved follow up surveys
of 118 patients taken both before the check and 3 months after.
Practice staff were trained and supported to conduct the health
checks and appropriate interventions.
There was ambivalence among some of the general practitioners
toward the health check, but most found it feasible. The reported
frequency of GP advice relating to each of the SNAP (smoking,
nutrition, alcohol, and physical activity) risk factors increased; patient
referrals, however, were infrequent. Patients’ readiness to change
their diet and exercise habits improved as a result of the check,
with respondents showing an increase in both the consumption of
vegetables and the frequency of physical activity. There was no
change in body mass index, smoking or alcohol consumption.
The health check was associated with a short term improvement
in diet and physical activity behaviours. Mechanisms to enhance
referral need to be developed.
In 2004–2005, 90% of Australian adults had at least one, and 44% had at least three, of the following modifiable chronic disease risk factors (of): tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, low fruit or vegetable consumption, at risk alcohol intake, hypertension, high blood cholesterol or excess weight.1 While there is evidence supporting the feasibility of addressing these risk factors in general practice, due to lack of both specific funding and time required to support assessment and counselling, interventions of this nature are infrequent.2
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