May 22, 1996
Media Contact: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 „ sgoodwi@emory.edu Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 ÜÜ covnic@emory.edu http://www.emory.edu/WHSC/

Women physicians and primary care physicians are most likely to counsel patients about unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, using drugs, avoiding exercise and engaging in unprotected sex, report Emory University School of Medicine and Greensboro College authors in the April issue of Archives of Family Medicine. In this first large, national assessment of prevention advice rates among male and female physicians from a variety of specialties, the authors report that "women physicians were significantly more likely than were men to report systematically counseling about unhealthy behaviors" (52 percent of the time compared with 38 percent for men). "Primary care practitioners consistently reported more frequent reviews of health behaviors and more frequent counseling than did men practicing other specialties" (49 percent of the time compared with 43 percent for nonprimary care male doctors and 56 percent versus 49 percent for female physicians), report study authors Erica Frank, M.D., assistant professor of family and preventive medicine, Emory University School of Medicine; and Lynn K. Harvey, Ph.D., Greensboro College. Broader implications for the study findings involve the nationwide increase in women physicians and an increased emphasis on prevention and primary care medicine. "Women now comprise approximately 40 percent of medical school classes," they say. "This means that ways in which women physicians may differ from men physicians (including their prevention-related counseling habits, their practice types, etc.) will help define the ways in which American medicine in the future will differ from American medicine now." The authors examine similarities between the genders, too. "Many physicians of both genders reported only sporadically inquiring about preventive behaviors, especially illegal drug use, sexual history and dietary habits," they report. "If preventive interventions are to become more common, anything we can do to produce more avid preventionists is valuable, including identifying and encouraging those physicians who perform these preventive behaviors more frequently, and providing additional training for those who do not. "It appears that women might be especially effective leaders in this effort." The study was commissioned by the American Medical Association and conducted by The Gallup Organization.

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