In general, Israeli doctors believe that part of their job is to encourage their patients towards a healthier lifestyle, better nutrition, exercise and avoiding smoking, but new research conducted by the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa found large gaps between this idea and its actual implementation. While 99% of the doctors surveyed said that they believe that educating their patients toward a healthier lifestyle is part of their job, 80% said they don't do it due to lack of time. Half of the doctors said that they don't get paid to educate their patients and 40% found it difficult to integrate lifestyle counselling into their clinical practice.

According to Iris Dagan, who conducted the study among 218 community physicians, the research revealed a few reasons why doctors feel more or less confident in their ability to bring about behavioural changes in their patients. "A doctor who never received proper training and doesn't know how to counsel his patients to change their habits will prefer not to discuss the issue with his patients, believing that he is not skilled in this area," explained Dagan.

Another reason is doctors' health lifestyles. A doctor who maintains a healthy lifestyle will be more apt to educate his patients; a doctor who doesn't will be more reluctant. "There is a difference between treating a specific complaint or illness and counselling patients to live a healthy lifestyle," explained Dagan.

Throughout the world, doctors are recognized behavioural counsellors. Recently, the Israeli health system has begun organizing ways to enable doctors to share this knowledge with their patients, say the Haifa researchers. Dagan remarked that she would like to see changes in the health system that would encourage more doctors to counsel their patients to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Haifa