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Open Access Research article

Predictors of healthcare professionals' intention and behaviour to encourage physical activity in patients with cardiovascular risk factors

Barbara Sassen1*, Gerjo Kok2 and Luc Vanhees13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health and Lifestyle, University of Applied Sciences, Utrecht, the Netherlands

2 Department of Work and Social Psychology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands

3 Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:246  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-246

Published: 19 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Healthcare professionals can play a crucial role in optimizing the health status of patients with cardiovascular risk factors (abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, elevated triglycerides and elevated blood glucose). In order to do this, it is imperative that we understand the social-cognitive determinants (including habits) that underlie healthcare professionals' intention and the corresponding behavior of actually encouraging patients with cardiovascular risk factors to engage in physical activity.

Methods

In this longitudinal Professionals' Intention and Behavior (PIB) study, healthcare professionals (N = 278, aged 20-61 years with approximately 60% having attained an education level exceeding bachelor's degree, types of healthcare professionals 60% in physiotherapy and 40% in nursing) completed online surveys measuring the social-cognitive determinants of healthcare professionals' intention and the corresponding behavior of actually encouraging patients with cardiovascular risk factors to engage in physical activity.

Results

Social-cognitive determinants accounted for 41% (p < .001) of the variance in healthcare professionals' intention to encourage physical activity among cardiovascular patients. Important correlates of intention were attitude (β = .443, p < .001), subjective norms (β = .201, p < .001) and perceived behavioral control (β = .137, p < .01). With respect to the self-reported behavior of encouraging patients, social-cognitive determinants accounted for 29% (p < .001) of the variance. Intentions (β = .311 p < .001), habit (β = .163 p < .01), and barriers (β = -.239 p < .001) were significant correlates of professionals' behavior of encouraging patients to engage in physical activity.

We explored the congruence between healthcare professionals' intention to encourage patients and the self-reported behavior of encouraging patients. We found that intention and behavior were congruent in 39.7% of the healthcare professionals. Additionally, the intention to encourage and the corresponding behavior of encouraging was incongruent in 31.7% of the healthcare professionals.

Conclusions

In the prevention of cardiovascular disease, healthcare professionals' intention to encourage physical activity among patients and subsequent behavior of encouraging patients is important for the improvement of patients' cardiovascular risk profiles. We found that the intentions and self-reported behavior of healthcare professionals working with patients with cardiovascular risk factors can be predicted by social-cognitive determinants thus implying that efforts to change and strengthen the intention-behavior relationship of healthcare professionals may have beneficial effects for cardiovascular risk patients (Trial ID: ECP-92).