Open Access Research article

The delivery of preventive care to clients of community health services

Kathleen M McElwaine123*, Megan Freund123, Elizabeth M Campbell123, Jenny Knight123, Jennifer A Bowman23, Emma L Doherty13, Paula M Wye12, Luke Wolfenden123, Christophe Lecathelinais1, Scott McLachlan4 and John H Wiggers123

Author affiliations

1 Population Health, Hunter New England Local Health District, Booth Building, Wallsend Health Services, Longworth Avenue, Wallsend, NSW 2287, Australia

2 The University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia

3 Hunter Medical Research Institute, Clinical Research Centre, Lot 1 Kookaburra Circuit, New Lambton Heights, NSW 2305, Australia

4 Primary and Community Networks, Hunter New England Local Health District, Tamworth Regional Office, 468-472 Peel Street, Tamworth, NSW 2340, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:167  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-167

Published: 6 May 2013



Smoking, poor nutrition, risky alcohol use, and physical inactivity are the primary behavioral risks for common causes of mortality and morbidity. Evidence and guidelines support routine clinician delivery of preventive care. Limited evidence describes the level delivered in community health settings. The objective was to determine the: prevalence of preventive care provided by community health clinicians; association between client and service characteristics and receipt of care; and acceptability of care. This will assist in informing interventions that facilitate adoption of opportunistic preventive care delivery to all clients.


In 2009 and 2010 a telephone survey was undertaken of 1284 clients across a network of 56 public community health facilities in one health district in New South Wales, Australia. The survey assessed receipt of preventive care (assessment, brief advice, and referral/follow-up) regarding smoking, inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption, alcohol overconsumption, and physical inactivity; and acceptability of care.


Care was most frequently reported for smoking (assessment: 59.9%, brief advice: 61.7%, and offer of referral to a telephone service: 4.5%) and least frequently for inadequate fruit or vegetable consumption (27.0%, 20.0% and 0.9% respectively). Sixteen percent reported assessment for all risks, 16.2% received brief advice for all risks, and 0.6% were offered a specific referral for all risks. The following were associated with increased care: diabetes services, number of appointments, being male, Aboriginal, unemployed, and socio-economically disadvantaged. Acceptability of preventive care was high (76.0%-95.3%).


Despite strong client support, preventive care was not provided opportunistically to all, and was preferentially provided to select groups. This suggests a need for practice change strategies to enhance preventive care provision to achieve adherence to clinical guidelines.

Community health services; Delivery of health care; Heath prevention; Health risk behaviors; Health care providers