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Open Access Research article

Health promotion services for patients having non-comminicable diseases: Feedback from patients and health care providers in Cape Town, South Africa

Whadi-ah Parker1*, Nelia P Steyn1, Naomi S Levitt2 and Carl J Lombard3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for the Study of the Social and Environmental Determinants of Nutrition, Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation, Human Sciences Research Council, Private Bag X9182, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

2 Diabetes and Endocrine Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Obervatory, 7925, South Africa

3 Biostatistics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, PO Box 19070, Tygerberg, 7505, Cape Town, South Africa

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:503  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-503

Published: 4 July 2012



Due to a paucity of data regarding the availability and efficacy of equipment, health promotion methods and materials currently used by health professionals for the management of patients with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at primary health care (PHC) facilities in Cape Town, an audit was undertaken.


A multi-centre cross-sectional study was undertaken to interview patients (n = 580) with NCDs at 30 PHC facilities. A questionnaire was used to obtain information on preferences for health promotion methods for lifestyle modification. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with selected health professionals (n = 14) and captured using a digital recorder. Data were transferred to the Atlas ti software programme and analysed using a thematic content analysis approach.


Blood pressure measurement (97.6%) was the most common diagnostic test used, followed by weight measurement (88.3%), urine (85.7%) and blood glucose testing (80.9%). Individual lifestyle modification counselling was the preferred health education method of choice for the majority of patients. Of the 64% of patients that selected chronic clubs/support groups as a method of choice, only a third rated this as their first choice. Pamphlets, posters and workshops/group counselling sessions were the least preferred methods with only 9%, 13% and 11% of patients choosing these as their first choice, respectively. In an individual counselling setting 44.7% of patients reported that they would prefer to be counselled by a doctor, followed by a nurse (16.9%), health educator (8.8%) and nutrition advisor (4.8%). Health professionals identified numerous barriers to education and counselling. These can be summarised as a lack of resources, including time, space and equipment; staff-related barriers such as staff shortage and staff turnover; and patient-related barriers such as patient load and patient non-compliance.


The majority of patients attending PHC facilities want to receive lifestyle modification education. There is not however, one specific method that can be regarded as the gold standard. Patients’ preferences regarding health education methods differ, and they are more likely to be susceptible to methods that do not involve much reading. Health education materials such as posters, pamphlets and booklets should be used to supplement information received during counselling or support group sessions.

Patient preferences; Health education materials; Health education methods; Chronic diseases of lifestyle; Lifestyle modification