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General practitioners’ perceptions and practices of physical activity counselling: changes over the past 10 years


Objective: In this work, trends in general practitioners’ (GP) knowledge, confidence and practices in promoting physical activity to patients over a 10-year period (1997–2007) were studied.

Design: Repeated cross-sectional population survey

Setting: General practice in New South Wales (Australia)

Participants: 646 (40%), 747 (53%) and 511 (64%) GPs that were registered in a selection of urban and rural divisions in New South Wales participated in 2007, 2000 and 1997, respectively.

Main outcome measures: Self-report questionnaire on the GP’s knowledge, confidence, role perception, attendance of continuous professional development and counselling practice with regard to promoting physical activity in their patients were the main outcome measures.

Results: The majority of GPs felt confident in giving physical activity advice and saw it as their role to do so. The proportion of GPs with high confidence and role perception increased between 1997 and 2000 (p<0.001) but remained unchanged thereafter. In 1997, GPs were 0.54 times less likely (95% CI 0.42 to 0.69, p<0.001) to discuss physical activity with more than 10 patients per week than GPs in 2007. However, the percentage of new patients that were asked about their physical activity did not change over the last decade.

Conclusions: Most increases in the proportion of GPs reporting high knowledge, role perception and confidence in giving physical activity advice to patients occurred between 1997 and 2000 and remained unchanged thereafter. In 2007, GPs appeared to give more physical activity advice, but Australian general practice is not yet living up to its potential with regard to physical activity promotion.

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