Small Group Counseling in Memphis Helps Motivate Low-Income Patients to Develop Healthy Behaviors

Prescription for Health: Training primary care providers to incorporate health behavior counseling into rountine medical care

From 2001 to 2004, staff from the faith-based Church Health Center of Memphis tested and refined Prescription for Health, an intervention designed to deliver health behavior and motivational counseling to low-income, predominantly African-American clients at two primary care sites: a clinic and a prevention and wellness center.

When pilot testing indicated that a one-on-one, physician-led Prescription was not clinically, economically or operationally feasible within a primary care setting, project staff shifted to a small group model, which focuses on teaching patients self-management strategies and activating their own resources to cope with and prevent disease.

Key Results

  • From April 2001 to December 2002, more than 1,500 people received individual Prescriptions for Health:

    • Fifty-seven patients in the Church Health Center clinic.
    • Some 1,500 members of the prevention and wellness center.
  • In 2003, staff administered small group versions of Prescriptions for Health to 2,792 prevention and wellness center members.

  • In October 2003, staff launched a small group version of Prescription in the primary care clinic for patients with diabetes.

  • Over the project period, about 46 resident physicians from the University of Tennessee and Methodist University Hospital in Memphis received training in the Prescription for Health process.