Diet and Physical Activity Counseling During Ambulatory Care Visits in the United States

BACKGROUND: Research is limited regarding national patterns of behavioral counseling during ambulatory care. We examined time trends and independent correlates of diet and physical activity counseling for American adults with an elevated cardiovascular risk during their outpatient visits.

METHODS: The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) provided 1992-2000 national estimates of counseling practices in private physician offices and hospital outpatient departments.

RESULTS: Rates of diet and physical activity counseling among visits by at-risk adults exhibited a modest ascending trend from 1992 to 2000, with the biggest growth found between 1996 and 1997. Throughout the 1990s, however, diet counseling was provided in or = 75 years of age, seen by generalists, and those with fewer risk factors. Also, diet counseling was less frequently provided during visits by whites vs. ethnic minorities and by men vs. women.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite available national guidelines, diet and physical activity counseling remain below expectations during outpatient visits by adults with an elevated cardiovascular risk. Given recent trends, immediate, satisfactory improvement is unlikely without future innovative interventions.