Our health system is confronted with increasing chronic illnesses. Patients with a spectrum of chronic illnesses are faced by the challenge of changing their health behaviours. The activities related to health behaviour changes could be taken at the individual, the familial and the communal levels with a goal of improving health, preventing diseases, and limiting illnesses.
Although primary care practice models may affect the delivery of promoting health behaviour change activities, family physcians play a central role in this due to their longitudinal relationships with their patients. Hogg et al. reports that patients having and seeing their own family physicians are more likely to receive promotions of health behaviour changes in family practice (defined as patient reported discussion about at least one health promotion subject in the consultation). This supports the significance of the relational continuity between patients and their family physicians in engaging and empowering patients towards taking the charge of their own health and make changes in their health behaviors. Not surprisingly, they also report that longer medical appointment intervals increase the likelihood of this kind of discussions since it provides enough time for these conversations.
As well, there are challenges of providing such support to people with multiple chronic conditions or those who are underprivileged because of their cultural or socioeconomic background. Once again, family physicians are in a perfect position to overcome this issue since their continuous care to patients should include all aspects of care, physical, psychological, and social well-being, in the context of the family and the community patients come from.
One of the principles of the College of Family Physicians of Canada is that “the patient-physician relationship is central to the role of the family physician”. Therefore, creating a particular patient-physician relationship is crucial in family medicine, which facilitates encouraging patients to change their health behaviours and to set goals towards improving their health.
Alain Nathan Sahin
Université de Montréal
- William Hogg, S.D., Grant Russell, Meltem Tuna, Robert Geneau, Laura Muldoon, Elizabeth Kristjansson, Sharon Johnston, Health promotion activity in primary care: performance of models and associated factors Open Medicine, 2009. 3(3).
- The College of Family Physicians of Canada. Four Principles of Family Medicine, October 12, 2015;