Diffusion of a Model for Addressing Behavioral Health Issues in Primary Care Practices

RWJF Diffusion Series

    • December 5, 2012

Dates of Program: August 2002 through October 2008. The report describes spread and adaption since that time.

Field of Work: Integrating behavioral health care into primary care practices

Problem Synopsis: Four unhealthy behaviors—tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption—are the leading causes of preventable disease, disability, and premature death in the United States each year. Spending on heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions linked to them accounts for up to 70 percent of U.S. health care costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Clinicians on the front lines of health care are uniquely positioned to influence health-related behavior among their patients.

Results of the Funded Work: Prescription for Health funded 22 practice-based research networks to (1) deliver behavioral health care in primary care practices; (2) to investigate what can and does happen in front-line medical care; and (3) to connect research, clinical practice, and health care policy.

Models developed under Prescription for Health helped to pioneer the integration of behavioral health assessments into primary care practices in the United States. Although behavioral health assessments have yet to become commonplace in all primary practices, health systems have begun to embrace and adapt this initiative both nationally and internationally.

Prescription for Health was among the first programs to design models to help primary care physicians target multiple unhealthy behaviors at one time. The models were designed with behavior change at their core by asking (a) can practice based research networks integrate behavioral health interventions and (b) can primary care practices influence unhealthy behaviors. Read the Program Results Report for more information on the program.

"Prescription for Health took off the table the misconception that primary care practices don't care about behavior, don't want to deal with it, and are unable to support key national policy objectives, such as resolving the obesity epidemic."—Program Director Larry A. Green, MD

Key Results Since RWJF Funding Ended: Researchers, primary practices, and institutions are collaborating and continuing to adapt and apply ideas used in Prescription for Health.

Models developed under Prescription for Health helped to pioneer the integration of behavioral health assessments and interventions into primary care practices in the United States. Although the program’s contributions make up a single factor among many that led to national changes in primary care, the models and ideas from the program continue to spread and be adapted by health systems both nationally and internationally.

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