Staff perceptions of addressing lifestyle in primary health care: a qualitative evaluation 2 years after the introduction of a lifestyle intervention tool
1 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Community Medicine, Linköping University, Linköping, SE, 581 83, Sweden
2 R&D Department of Local Health Care, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
3 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Division of Primary Care, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:99 doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-99Published: 10 October 2012
Preventive services and health promotion in terms of lifestyle counselling provided through primary health care (PHC) has the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality in the population. Health professionals in general are positive about and willing to develop a health-promoting and/or preventive role. A number of obstacles hindering PHC staff from addressing lifestyle issues have been identified, and one facilitator is the use of modern technology. When a computer-based tool for lifestyle intervention (CLT) was introduced at a number of PHC units in Sweden, this provided an opportunity to study staff perspectives on the subject. The aim of this study was to explore PHC staff’s perceptions of handling lifestyle issues, including the consultation situation as well as the perceived usefulness of the CLT.
A qualitative study was conducted after the CLT had been in operation for 2 years. Six focus group interviews, one at each participating unit, including a total of 30 staff members with different professions participated. The interviews were designed to capture perceptions of addressing lifestyle issues, and of using the CLT. Interview data were analysed using manifest content analysis.
Two main themes emerged from the interviews: a challenging task and confidence in handling lifestyle issues. The first theme covered the categories responsibilities and emotions, and the second theme covered the categories first contact, existing tools, and role of the CLT. Staff at the units showed commitment to health promotion/prevention, and saw that patients, caregivers, managers and politicians all have responsibilities regarding the issue. They expressed confidence in handling lifestyle-related conditions, but to a lesser extent had routines for general screening of lifestyle habits, and found addressing alcohol the most problematic issue. The CLT, intended to facilitate screening, was viewed as a complement, but was not considered an important tool for health promotion/prevention.
Additional resources, for example in terms of manpower, may help to build the structures necessary for the health promotion/prevention task. Committed leaders could enhance the engagement among staff. Cooperation in multi-professional teams seems to be important, and methods or tools perceived by staff as compatible have a potential to be successfully implemented. Economic incentives rewarding quantity rather than quality appear to be frustrating to PHC staff.