Assessment and management of risk factors for the prevention of lifestyle-related disease

The purpose of this study was to provide a snapshot of current activities, barriers and perceived training needs for the assessment and management of behavioural risk factors in physiotherapy practice in primary care settings in the Republic of Ireland. 220 primary care physiotherapists were asked to participate. Each was given a questionnaire, consisting of 23 questions, within five key sections. Its main focus was the risk factor management practices of physiotherapists. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were used to analyse the data. A response rate of 74% (163/220) was reached. Level of physical activity was the most common risk factor assessed at initial and follow-up visits (78%, 127/163), followed by dietary status (55%, 90/163). Few respondents included smoking status and alcohol consumption in their assessment; although, the majority considered them as risk factors that should be addressed. The main reasons why smoking status and alcohol consumption were not assessed were lack of time, limited knowledge and expertise, not traditionally viewed as the physiotherapist’s role, and patient’s lack of interest in changing their unhealthy behaviour.

This study’s findings highlight an unused potential in relation to physiotherapists addressing lifestyle-related risk factors. A number of strategies are needed to improve the systematic assessment and management of these risk factors.