At present, less than 5 percent of health care expenditures are associated with preventive measures.

A new study suggests one facet of preventive medicine’s potential, finding that health educators embedded in physician clinics resulted in more weight loss among obese individuals than when the physician alone provided the advice.

The results are not surprising as health educators are trained to provide behavioral modification counseling and physicians often have limited time to discuss and demonstrate health strategies and activities.

Most primary care physicians do not have the time to provide high-intensity behavioral counseling to their patients, said study author Robert Ross, Ph.D., a Queen’s University professor.

“The cornerstone of health care delivery is the doctor’s office and the doctor doesn’t have a lot of time to counsel and adequately monitor patients to get them to adopt healthy lifestyles. So the study placed a kinesiology-trained, health care professional in the doctors’ office to see if they could produce better results — and they did,” said Ross.

The study looked at 490 sedentary, obese adults over two years. The patients who worked with a trained health educator within the primary care setting made major behavioral changes to their lifestyle over the long term, resulting in significant reductions in abdominal obesity.

Ross said the findings are encouraging, but it would be premature to suggest the government should fund a health care professional in every doctor’s office.

“The study provides promising results and it heads us in the right direction. We still have a lot to learn about how to get obese, sedentary individuals to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors over the long term,” he said.

The study is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Source: Queen’s University