The objective of this study was to examine prevalence rates of lifestyle risk factors in the Western Victorian Primary Health Network (WV PHN) general practice patient population and the corresponding levels of clinical advice and counselling.
Analysed data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program from April 2011 to March 2015 were examined, providing a comparison of three geographical areas of general practice patients: WV PHN, Victoria and Australia.
Rates of clinical advice and counselling for diet and exercise provided by general practitioners (GPs) in the WV PHN network were significantly lower than Victorian and Australian rates, despite the region’s higher obesity rates. Smoking rates were higher in the WV PHN compared with Australia, but there was no difference in the levels of smoking cessation advice disseminated. Across all regions, one in four patients drank alcohol at hazardous levels.
GPs in rural practice require further support, encouragement and resources to provide diet and exercise advice to their patients more frequently.