A meta-analysis of trials evaluating patient education and counseling for three groups of preventive health behaviors Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES: To examine the overall effectiveness of patient education and counseling on preventive health behaviors and to examine the effects of various approaches for modifying specific types of behaviors. DATA SOURCES: Computerized databases (Medline, Healthline, Dissertation Abstracts, and Psychological Abstracts), bibliographies 1971-1994. Search terms (patient education, patient compliance, and self care) with modifiers (evaluation and specific preventive behaviors). STUDY SELECTION: Randomized and non-randomized controlled trials measuring behavior in clinical settings with patients without diagnosed disease. Abstracts and retrieved studies screened by multiple reviewers; 13% of retrieved studies met screening criteria. DATA EXTRACTION: Replicated coding by multiple observers. DATA SYNTHESIS: Behaviors were grouped based on whether the behavior is addictive and whether the desired change required subtraction of existing behaviors or adding new behaviors. The weighted average effect size from a random effects model for smoking/alcohol studies was 0.61 (CI = 0.45, 0.77), for nutrition/weight, 0.51 (CI = 0.20, 0.82) and for other behaviors, 0.56 (CI = 0.34, 0.77) indicating that the behavioral outcomes for these subgroups were significantly different from zero. Multiple regression models for the three groups indicated that using behavioral techniques, particularly self-monitoring, and using several communication channels, e.g., media plus personal communication, produces larger effects for the smoking/alcohol and nutrition/weight groups. CONCLUSIONS: Patient education and counseling contribute to behavior change for primary prevention of disease. Some techniques are more effective than others in changing specific behaviors.

author list (cited authors)

  • Mullen, P. D., Simons-Morton, D. G., Ramı́rez, G., Frankowski, R. F., Green, L. W., & Mains, D. A.

citation count

  • 102

publication date

  • November 1997