Making Prevention Part of the Doctor Visit

Project Believe Toolkit Helps Physicians Dispense Prevention Prescriptions

September 30, 2002

A massive campaign to help primary care physicians standardize the approach toward prevention and improve the number of health screenings among their patients is underway. Through the Project Believe Toolkit, 27 physician offices with more than 165,000 patients now have access to a comprehensive resource binder containing the most up-to-date information on cholesterol, nutrition and diets, weight management, smoking cessation, and age-specific health screening guidelines.

The toolkit will constantly evolve and expand to include other health topics, and will also be available on-line for physicians and their patients by the end of the year (some elements are already posted at www.stronghealth.com). It is one of four health interventions funded in 2001 by Project Believe, a community-wide initiative led by the University of Rochester Medical Center to help Rochester become America’s healthiest community by 2020.

Initially the Toolkit will be tested among the Strong Health Primary Care Network and several community health centers, and eventually will be made available to the entire primary care community by the end of 2003.

“Due to the nature of primary care offices, prevention tends to take a back seat as physicians and staff devote most of their time to treating sick patients. For example, it’s difficult to talk to patients about cholesterol screening when they are ill with flu symptoms," said Stephen Cohen, M.D., medical director of the Strong Health primary care network. “With the Project Believe Toolkit, multiple resources are available to help physicians easily communicate health promotion to their patients, whether it is through waiting and patient room brochures, postcards, or prepared letters that can be handed to a patient during an exam.”

According to Cohen, research consistently shows that health screenings provide an opportunity for disease prevention and reduction, but in Monroe County, the use of preventive screenings for cancer and heart disease are as low as 28 percent. Included in the Project Believe Toolkit are “Believe in Better Health” adult guideline cards to remind patients about age-specific health screening recommendations. During initial testing of these cards with patients, research showed that more than 28 percent indicated they would make a behavior change as a result of reading the information on the card, and 20 percent said they would make an appointment for a health screening.

 “As physicians, we must become more proactive prevention advocates, and give our patients the information and resources they need to live healthier lives,” Cohen said.

Each topic contained in the Tookit will offer physicians a menu of resources for use around their office and with patients. For example, the Cholesterol section includes brochures, posters and table tents encouraging patients to get their cholesterol checked, nutrition guidelines for a low cholesterol diet, and a nutrition label reference guide for patients to use when shopping. The Nutrition and Diet section contains more than 15 types of diets (i.e., low salt, low fat, high iron, etc.), and a comprehensive referral listing of community nutrition and diet organizations. # # #

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Germaine Reinhardt
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