Open Access Research article

Is there scope for community health nurses to address lifestyle risk factors? the community nursing SNAP trial

Bibiana C Chan1*, Rachel A Laws2, Anna M Williams1, Gawaine Powell Davies1, Mahnaz Fanaian3, Mark F Harris1* and the CN SNAP Project Team

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia

2 Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney, Medical Foundation Building, 92 Parramatta Rd, Camperdown NSW 2006, Australia

3 Illawarra Health & Medical Research Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Wollongong, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia

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BMC Nursing 2012, 11:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-11-4

Published: 15 March 2012



This paper examines the opportunity and need for lifestyle interventions for patients attending generalist community nursing services in Australia. This will help determine the scope for risk factor management within community health care by generalist community nurses (GCNs).


This was a quasi-experimental study conducted in four generalist community nursing services in NSW, Australia. Prior to service contacts, clients were offered a computer-assisted telephone interview to collect baseline data on socio-demographics, health conditions, smoking status, physical activity levels, alcohol consumption, height and weight, fruit and vegetable intake and 'readiness-to-change' for lifestyle risk factors.


804 clients participated (a response rate of 34.1%). Participants had higher rates of obesity (40.5% vs 32.1%) and higher prevalence of multiple risk factors (40.4% vs 29.5%) than in the general population. Few with a SNAPW (

hysical-Activity-Weight) risk factor had received advice or referral in the previous 3 months. The proportion of clients identified as at risk and who were open to change (i.e. contemplative, in preparation or in action phase) were 65.0% for obese/overweight; 73.8% for smokers; 48.2% for individuals with high alcohol intake; 83.5% for the physically inactive and 59.0% for those with poor nutrition.


There was high prevalence of lifestyle risk factors. Although most were ready to change, few clients recalled having received any recent lifestyle advice. This suggests that there is considerable scope for intervention by GCNs. The results of this trial will shed light on how best to implement the lifestyle risk factor management in routine practice.