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Free Counseling on Smoking, Obesity Draws Better Response, Referral Rates

Posted Feb 04 2010 8:39am
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that people respond well to free counseling programs on weight loss or smoking cessationbut participation falls dramatically when services are no longer free. The cost of counseling also appears to make a difference to the doctors or health-care providers who refer patients to the programsaccording to the study.

The authors reviewed a program that used an electronic database system to suggest health-care counseling for adults with unhealthy behaviors. For a timefree counseling was provided until funding ran out. Under the free program1,860 of 5,679 people who were evaluated were determined to have at least one unhealthy habitand 407 of them were given referrals for intensive counselingthe study reported.

After the funding ceased729 of 2,510 people who were evaluated were determined to have unhealthy habits and just five were referred for counseling -- a 97 percent decrease in the referral rateaccording to the study. Even when clinicians did offer a referral81 percent fewer patients followed through and got counseling when the counseling was not free.
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