A recent study in the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that health professionals need to better understand that building healthy habits in their patients is about more than just their patients’ motivation.
To fully understand how to help others establish healthy habits, doctors need to understand the challenges as well as opportunities that many patients face on a daily basis.
Robert Ferrer, department of family and community medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, recently had an interview with the American Academy of Family Physicians.
"Your personal circumstances and your environment shape your practical opportunities, which then shape the choices that you make, which then shape the outcome -- so there are stages involved," he said. "Unless we get in the exam rooms in health settings and we try to understand what comes before choices, then it's kind of an impoverished fact-finding basis for counseling people."
Ferrer has found that patients' feasible opportunities -- such as what they can practically do because of surrounding, demographics and abilities -- have a more positive relation with the intentions, activity behaviors, eating habits and predicted lower body mass index (BMI).
Two main practical opportunities exist: conversion factors, which are personal circumstances that limit the ability of people, and resources available, like a nearby gym or park. The absence of these two variables can greatly affect any patient’s healthy habits.