Physical activity is vital for adding days in life and life in days through disease prevention, improved psychological well-being, quality of life and increased longevity. Physicians’ counseling is remained the strongest determinant of patients health seeking behaviors including physical exercise. Exercise plays a crucial role in addressing the current epidemics of obesity and chronic disease; however, only 20% Americans have regular exercise habit that meet Physical Activity Guidelines. Recognizing the well-documented health benefits of exercise and power of physicians’ counseling that has been included in all the Healthy People Objectives since 2000.
[Photo: Dr. Nasar U. Ahmed]
Although considerable national efforts have been invested to improve exercise habits in the population, the prevalence of physician’s counseling on exercise remains dismally low. It is important to identify predictors of physician’s recommendation for healthier eating, and examine the disparities and changing trends over a decade of efforts.
Led by Health Disparity Researcher Dr. Nasar U Ahmed and his team from the Department of Epidemiology, Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University, this study used 2000, 2005 and 2010 National Health Interview Survey data to assess the trend and identify predictors of physicians’ counseling and examine any changes in disparities over a decade.
The study found that in 2000, only 23% of respondents had received counseling on exercise; it increased to about 34% after a decade. Uninsured respondents were 35% less likely to report receiving exercise advice from their physician in all study years and male respondents were 23% less likely to receive counseling. However, patients with advancing levels of education were increasingly more likely to report receipt of counseling in each successive survey year.
The overall prevalence of physicians’ counseling remained low, however it increased significantly between 2000 and 2010. It is encouraging that sole racial and ethnic disparities narrowed substantially or eliminated completely. However some disparities persist, with a still unmet need for physicians to counsel particularly those most vulnerable to becoming overweight or obese, including those with low education, who are uninsured or male.