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New grants focus on helping primary care providers promote healthy behaviors in their patients

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have awarded $3 million to fund the second round of grants for the "Prescription for Health: Promoting Health Behaviors in Primary Care Research Networks" initiative, which is supported by both organizations. The program is aimed at developing effective, practical strategies for changing Americans' unhealthy behaviors through primary care.

Through the Prescription for Health program, primary care practices are concentrating on four leading health risk factors: lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse. The projects are conducted by practice-based research networks, which are groups of medical practices that work together to investigate a variety of questions about how health care is managed or delivered.

During the first phase of the Prescription for Health initiative, 17 practice-based research networks received grants for projects designed to develop creative and practical strategies to improve health behavior counseling that can help patients adopt healthier lifestyles. The goal of the second round of funding is to further understand and measure the extent to which more comprehensive health behavior counseling strategies are effective in improving patients' behaviors and result in improved practice. All second round projects will evaluate outcomes using a common set of patient and practice measures, and they will assess the strategies for reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance.

The 24-month innovation grants are each for $300,000. Examples of innovations include:

  • PDA-based assessment of health risks for adolescents with tailored in-office counseling, and followup through community referrals and Web-based resources.
  • Creation of new types of staff positions, such as a community health educator and referral liaison who will serve as a bridge between the practice, patient, and community in the form of a one-stop-shopping health behavior referral service.
  • Interactive voice response system used to conduct risk assessment and deliver tailored counseling over the phone.
  • Electronic health record prompts for providers with different options for counseling and followup including Web-based, telephone-based, and group visits.
  • Reframing the 2-year-old well-child visit to focus on family lifestyle risk assessment and behavior change for the entire family through referrals to lifestyle counselors.

For more information about the grant awards and the Prescription for Health program, go to

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