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The Role of Health Promotion in Physical Therapy in California, New York, and Tennessee

Brenda L Rea, Helen Hopp Marshak, Christine Neish, Nicceta Davis

Abstract

Background and Purpose. As health care providers, physical therapists are in an ideal position to address health promotion issues with their patients; yet, little is known about actual health promotion practice patterns or the confidence of physical therapists in engaging in such activities. The purposes of this study were: (1) to investigate perceptions of practice patterns in 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010 (disability and secondary conditions by assessing psychological well-being, nutrition and overweight, physical activity and fitness, and tobacco use) and (2) to identify related self-efficacy and outcome expectations in California, New York, and Tennessee. Subjects. A instrument was pilot tested and distributed in 2 waves to 3,500 randomly selected, licensed physical therapists from 3 states: California, New York, and Tennessee. Methods. Interviews were randomly conducted via telephone with 23 physical therapists in all 3 states until similar responses were identified in order to create the qualitative instrument, which was then pilot tested with 20 physical therapists in California. The total number of qualitative instruments used in the data analyses was 417 (145 from California, 127 from New York, and 145 from Tennessee) or 11.9%. Results. The health promotion behavior most commonly thought to be practiced by physical therapists was assisting patients to increase physical activity (54%), followed by psychological well-being (41%), nutrition and overweight issues (19%), and smoking cessation (17%). Self-efficacy predicted all 4 behaviors beyond the control variables. Minimal state-to-state differences were noted. Discussion and Conclusion. Physical therapists believe they are addressing health promotion topics with patients, although in varying degrees and in lower than desirable percentages based on Healthy People 2010 goals. This study demonstrated that a physical therapist's confidence in being able to perform a behavior (self-efficacy) was the best predictor of perceptions of practice patterns and is an area to target in future interventions.

Statistics outlined in Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health1 demonstrate the need for continued emphasis on health promotion in America. For example, it was estimated that more than 19 million American adults currently have depression, and, in 1997, only 23% of those who were diagnosed with depression received intervention. In 2001, among adults aged 20 years and older, 37% were overweight (body mass index [BMI]=25.0–29.9) and 21% were obese (BMI=30.0+). In 1997, only 15% of the adult population performed the recommended amount of physical activity, and, in 2001, 25.7% reported no participation in leisure-time physical activity. In 2001, 22.8% of the adult population was still smoking. Thus, there is a great need for a concerted effort by all Americans to promote health in themselves and the community in which they live.1,2 Fortunately, Healthy People 2010 has provided the nation with a set of objectives and focus areas that can guide us in the effort to improve the health of our people.

Many health care professionals, including physical therapists, are needed to lead and develop health promotion plans and strategies in the work force in order to assist the nation in achieving Healthy People 2010 goals. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has taken the initiative to assist the nation in promoting health by being a member of the Healthy People Consortium, a group of 650 national, professional, and voluntary organizations and agencies that assisted with creating Healthy People 2010.3

Currently, physical therapists' educational and practice guidelines emphasize inclusion of health promotion. For example, APTA has a mission to “further the profession's role in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of movement dysfunction and the enhancement of physical health and functional abilities of members of the public.”4 The APTA Guide to Physical Therapist Practice, 2nd edition, states that a part of physical therapists' practice is to “provide prevention and promote health, wellness, and fitness.”5(p40) The Guide to Physical Therapist Practice suggests that physical therapists can be involved in primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention. For example, information such as behavioral health risks (eg, smoking, drug abuse), level of physical fitness, familial health risks, psychological function (eg, memory, reasoning ability, depression, anxiety), social interactions, social activities, support systems, and review of other clinical findings (eg, nutrition, hydration) are all listed as pertinent to a physical therapist assessment. Furthermore, the APTA standards 3.8.3.33 and 3.8.3.34, respectively, state that physical therapists are to “identify and assess the health needs of individuals, groups and communities, including screening, prevention, and wellness programs appropriate to physical therapy” and to “promote optimal health by providing information on wellness, impairment, disease, disability, and health risks related to age, gender, culture, and lifestyle.”6(Appendix B-23)

Very little research has addressed physical therapy and health promotion. Fruth et al7 observed the prevalence of health promotion and disease prevention statements made by physical therapists within 96 physical therapy sessions based on 6 categories from Eberst's Multidimensional Model of Health: physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and vocational.8 Within each of the 6 categories, Fruth and colleagues established subcategories. For instance, under the “emotional” category, subcategories included “stress,” “support groups,” “coping,” and “accepting self.” In the “physical” category, subcategories included “nutrition and overweight,” “patient disease/injury,” “exercise,” “smoking,” “rest and relaxation,” “stress,” “sports/fitness,” and “recreation.” If any statements regarding these subcategories were noted during the treatment session, the observer recorded which category the statement addressed and whether the statement was initiated by the patient or the therapist. This does not mean, however, that physical therapy intervention was used or was effective.

Fruth et al7 found the average number of health promotion statements in a treatment session to be relatively low, with a mean frequency of 2.44. When health promotion statements were made, they were primarily in the “physical” category (an average of 1.93 of the 2.44 total). For example, 172 out of the 218 (79%) total health promotion statements were in the “physical” category. In contrast, out of 218 total statements, only 6 were made in the “emotional” category, 2 were made in the “mental health” category, 14 were made in the “social” category, none were made in the “spiritual” category, and 24 were made in the “vocational” category. The researchers also found no relationship between the number of health promotion statements and the therapist's academic degree, years of experience, duration of treatment session, type of physical therapy setting, or where the patient was during a course of recovery.

In our study, we addressed 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010, areas we believed to be important to health promotion practice in physical therapy: focus area 6 (disability and secondary conditions by looking at psychological well-being), focus area 19 (nutrition and overweight), focus area 22 (physical fitness and activity), and focus area 27 (tobacco use). Other focus areas such as focus area 2 (arthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic low back pain) or focus area 12 (heart disease and stroke) also were considered important in physical therapy health promotion; however, we felt the 4 chosen focus areas were foundational to prevention of chronic lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and osteoporosis. The study also addressed self-efficacy and outcome expectations as described by Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)9,10 in order to identify likely predictors of physical therapist practice.

In SCT, as noted in the Figure, Bandura proposed an explanation of how self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and reinforcement can influence person, behavior, and environment.9,10 According to Bandura, self-efficacy is the belief or confidence that a person can carry out a behavior necessary to reach a desired goal.9,10 In addition, Bandura explains outcome expectation as a personal judgment that a particular task or behavior will result in a specific outcome.9,10 In 1997, Bandura10 suggested interactions between high and low self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations. He proposed that, when both self-efficacy and outcome expectations are high, a person will exhibit productive and aspiring behaviors that result in personal satisfaction. When self-efficacy and outcome expectations are low, however, Bandura argued that a person will exhibit resigning and apathetic behaviors that result in dissatisfaction.

Figure.

Relationships between efficacy beliefs and outcome expectancies. Reprinted with permission from Bandura A. Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York, NY: WH Freeman & Co; 1997. Copyright © 1997 by WH Freeman & Co.

Social Cognitive Theory9,10 was chosen as a framework for our study because self-efficacy and outcome expectations have been shown to be associated with various health behaviors such as a health care professional's readiness to screen for domestic violence,11 a resident physician's willingness to address preventive topics with patients,12 condom use in people with AIDS,13 and alcohol drinking behaviors in adolescents.14

When considering the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010 addressed in this research, we expected that physical therapists who have high scores in both self-efficacy and outcome expectations in a given focus area would likely have increased frequency of health promotion practice patterns in that same focus area. For instance, one of the possible outcomes according to SCT9,10 might be that physical therapists who rate themselves high in self-efficacy or outcome expectation measures in focus area 19 (nutrition and overweight) would be expected to demonstrate more frequent inclusion of nutrition and overweight issues during practice, which will result in greater personal satisfaction for themselves.

Three states—California, New York, and Tennessee—were chosen for the study because they represented distinctly different environments in which physical therapists practice, and this may influence how physical therapists practice health promotion. As outlined in Table 1, issues in which these states vary are general health ranking, region within the United States, state practice act statements, and direct access for physical therapist services as well as insurance reimbursement for those services. For example, California has the highest health ranking of the 3 states; however, it has no inclusion of health promotion or prevention statement in the physical therapy practice act. Tennessee has the lowest health ranking of the 3 states, but has the most comprehensive health promotion statement in the physical therapy practice act. According to APTA (Justin Elliott, Associate Director–State Relations, Department of Government Affairs, APTA; personal communication; February 24, 2004) and the United Health Foundation,15 New York has an average health ranking as well as a prevention of disease and other conditions statement in the physical therapy practice act.

Table 1.

Summary of the Variations Across States Applicable to Physical Therapist Practice15

Healthy People 2010 statistics portray health status in America and individual states in the 4 focus areas addressed in this research. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)2 database helps track the status of each focus area and objective in Healthy People 2010. Table 2 outlines the Healthy People 2010 means of measuring the 4 chosen focus areas in which physical therapists need to be able to competently intervene and compares the statistics among the nation, California, New York, and Tennessee. The state with the lowest mental health status was California, followed by New York and Tennessee. The state with the most prevalent obesity problem was Tennessee, followed by California and New York. The state with the lowest leisure-time activity and highest smoking rates was Tennessee, followed by New York and California. Thus, each state has its strengths and weaknesses in reference to the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010.

Table 2.

Comparisons Across the Nation, California, New York, and Tennessee in the 4 Focus Areas of Healthy People 2010 According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System2

As noted by the authors of Healthy People 2010, America has many health objectives to achieve by the year 2010, and health promotion in health care will be an important means of working toward these objectives. The literature demonstrates that some physical therapists think they are currently addressing health promotion during practice, particularly in the area of physical activity; however, there is much room for expansion of all areas of health promotion in practice. As health care providers, physical therapists are in an ideal position to address health promotion issues with their patients; yet, little is known about actual health promotion practice patterns or the confidence of physical therapists in engaging in such activities and the benefits of doing so.

The research questions addressed 4 specific focus areas of Healthy People 2010 that are important to physical therapy health promotion: focus area 6 (disability and secondary conditions by looking at psychological well-being), focus area 19 (nutrition and overweight), focus area 22 (physical fitness and activity), and focus area 27 (tobacco use). Self-efficacy and outcome expectations as described by SCT9,10 were assessed. The research questions were:

  1. What are physical therapists' general perceptions of their health promotion practice patterns in regard to the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010, and are there differences across California, New York, and Tennessee?

  2. What are physical therapists' general levels of perceived self-efficacy and outcome expectations in regard to incorporating health promotion into practice for each of the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010, and are such levels of self-efficacy and expectations related to health promotion practice patterns of practicing physical therapists?

Method

Subjects

Names and addresses of all licensed physical therapists in the states of California, New York, and Tennessee were purchased from the following agencies: State of California–State and Consumer Services Agency, New York State Education Department, and Tennessee Department of Health, Bureau of Health Informatics. The number of licensed physical therapists in each state were: California, 15,502; New York, 15,000; and Tennessee, 3,342. Licensed physical therapists with addresses outside the state in which they were licensed were excluded in an effort to ensure that physical therapists licensed, but not practicing, in the chosen states would be excluded from the selection process. Thus, the total number of physical therapists in each state from which samples were selected were: California, 15,052; New York, 12,594; and Tennessee 2,856. The sample for each state was selected by assigning random numbers to each entry and then sorting according to the numbers. Stratification of each sample by ethnicity and sex was desirable because the physical therapy profession nationwide in 2001 was 69.7% to 74.2% female and 93% Caucasian.16,17 Stratification by ethnicity and sex, however, was not possible because only names and addresses were available (telephone numbers also were available from Tennessee).

Design

In our study, we used a cross-sectional, observational design. Variables assessed in the study included demographics, self-reported practice patterns in the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010, and self-reported self-efficacy (belief or confidence in performing a behavior) and outcome expectations (personal judgments that a behavior will result in a desired goal) according to SCT. The 8 independent variables measured were self-efficacy and outcome expectations in the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010: focus area 6 (disability and secondary conditions by looking at psychological well-being), focus area 19 (nutrition and overweight), focus area 22 (physical fitness and activity), and focus area 27 (tobacco use). The dependent variable was health promotion practice patterns of physical therapists in the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010 by state.

Focus Area Assessment

The health promotion practice pattern for focus area 6 (disability and secondary conditions in regard to psychological well-being) was addressed by assessing what percentage of the time (0%–100%) physical therapists assisted patients in reducing feelings of sadness, unhappiness, or depression and in increasing feelings of satisfaction with life. Focus area 19 (nutrition and overweight) was addressed by assessing what percentage of the time (0%–100%) physical therapists assisted patients in making healthier food choices to promote a healthy weight. Focus area 22 (physical fitness and activity) was addressed by assessing what percentage of the time (0%–100%) physical therapists assisted patients with increasing cardiovascular fitness for overall health benefits. Finally, focus area 27 (tobacco use) was addressed by assessing what percentage of the time (0%–100%) physical therapists assisted patients in reducing smoking habits.1,3,18,19

Assisting patients was further addressed by assessing when a physical therapist does assist in the focus area, that is, by assessing what percentage of the time (0%–100%) the following 4 methods are used: discuss or listen, develop and set goals, refer, and educate. These assisting methods were the most common methods stated during the interview process. For example, physical therapists indicated assistance was given to patients in making healthier food choices to promote a healthy weight 19% of the time. Furthermore, during that 19% of the time, the most common method used was discuss and listen (38% of the time). Theoretically, physical therapists could have indicated that each method was used 100% of the time if all 4 methods were used every time assistance was given. Although the percentages of methods chosen to assist for each topic area are beyond the scope of this article, variation was noted among topics. Survey questions used to determine percentages for assistance and methods of assistance in the nutrition and overweight focus area are shown in the Appendix.

Self-efficacy was addressed by assessing a physical therapist's confidence in assisting patients in each topic area under a variety of scenarios, one of which was “when the patient is aware of the problem and/or desires to improve.” A 6-point Likert scale was used to indicate if the therapist was very sure he or she could assist (1) or could not assist (6) the patient given a particular scenario. Outcome expectations were addressed by assessing if various outcomes or end results such as being “more rushed with your patient” would be good or bad if a physical therapist assisted a patient in a given topic. A 6-point Likert scale was used to indicate good outcomes (1) and bad outcomes (6). Survey questions used in the nutrition and overweight focus area are shown in the Appendix.* The reliability and validity of the survey data were not assessed.

Survey Development

The survey was developed via randomly selected interviews in the 3 states and quantitative pilot testing in California. Open-ended qualitative questions were developed for the 8 independent variables. These questions were used during the qualitative interviews that were carried out until similar responses were repeated and identified (conceptual density).20 Interviews were conducted via telephone with randomly selected physical therapists from each of the 3 states. Because telephone numbers of physical therapists were available only in the state of Tennessee, physical therapists' names from the states of California and New York were used to obtain telephone numbers through the Web site www.anywho.com. Conducting interviews with randomly selected physical therapists across all 3 states was chosen in order to obtain as much variety as possible in the areas of geographic backgrounds, ages, work settings, and educational institutions. A total of 23 interviews were conducted (6 in California, 9 in New York, and 8 in Tennessee) to ensure saturation level was reached. Once the information from the interviews was collected, a close-ended quantitative survey instrument was developed and pilot tested with 20 physical therapists in Loma Linda, Calif.

Data Collection

A cover letter was included with every survey questionnaire in order to explain the purpose, procedures, risks, and benefits of the study. The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Loma Linda University prior to initiating the study and was reapproved with a new cover letter when a second mailing was deemed necessary to obtain sufficient sample size. In the first mailing of 1,500 survey questionnaires, we included a small magnet as an incentive to open each of the envelopes. The magnet was specifically designed to portray the importance of physical therapists promoting health. However, due to lack of sufficient funds, the incentive magnet was omitted from the second mailing of 2,000 survey questionnaires.

According to the statistical software program G*Power by Erdfelder et al21 and standards set forth by Cohen,22 a multiple regression based on 8 variables and a small effect size with an R2 value of .11 required a sample size of 100 subjects per state to obtain a power of 80%. Portney and Watkins23 suggested that a survey questionnaire return rate of 30% to 60% in a clinical setting is realistic. Based on a conservative survey questionnaire return rate of 20%, 500 survey questionnaires per state, or 1,500 total, were mailed in the hope that 100 survey questionnaires per state, or 300 total, would be returned. Only 180 (12.0%) of the survey questionnaires were returned from the first mailing, so a second mailing of 2,000 survey questionnaires was sent to a new randomly selected group a month after the first mailing. In the second mailing, the survey questionnaires were split according to the number of responses still required from each state and led to the following number of survey questionnaires mailed per state: 550 to California, 700 to New York, and 750 to Tennessee. The second mailing yielded a return of 183 questionnaires (11.8%). The incentive magnet included in the first mailing but omitted in the second mailing did not seem to influence the survey questionnaire return rate. In addition, the first mailing with the incentive cost $1.45 per envelope, and the second mailing without the incentive cost $0.62 per envelope. Thus, the usable survey questionnaires utilized in the data analysis was 417 (145 [35%] in California, 127 [30%] in New York, and 145 [35%] in Tennessee). The low return rate of 12% limits generalizability to those who filled out the survey questionnaire and leads to the question of how accurately the data reflect true clinical practice.

Data Analysis

Data analysis was as follows for the given research questions:

  1. What are the perceived physical therapists' health promotion practice patterns in regard to the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010, and are there differences across California, New York, and Tennessee?

Means and 95% confidence intervals were calculated on the percentage of the time (0%–100%) physical therapists thought they assisted patients in each of the 4 focus areas. These percentages represent the perceived frequency of practicing each of the 4 health promotion behaviors. Multivariate analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) with Bonferroni adjustments were used to determine if there were differences in perceived health promotion practice patterns among California, New York, and Tennessee. Chi-square tests were used for nominal demographics and one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were used for continuous demographics (Kruskal-Wallis tests were used for year of graduation due to unequal variances) to determine if there were demographic differences across states that needed to be controlled for. The demographic results are shown in Table 3. Covariate demographics used for state-to-state comparisons of outcome variables were age, sex, ethnicity, hours per week worked, year of graduation, number of years worked in current setting, patients seen per hour, highest physical therapy degree obtained, school setting, and pediatric patients.

  • 2. What are physical therapists' levels of perceived self-efficacy and outcome expectations in regard to incorporating health promotion into practice for each of the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010, and are such levels of self-efficacy and expectations related to health promotion practice patterns of physical therapists?

Table 3.

Physical Therapist Demographic Characteristics by State

Self-efficacy items that were inherently negative such as “when significant other/family is not supportive” were reverse coded and all outcome expectation scores were reverse coded to indicate a higher sum as a positive or “good” outcome. Self-efficacy and outcome expectation statements were then combined into overall self-efficacy and outcome expectation summed scores for each of the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010. Reliability of the measurements was not tested. Pearson correlations were used to determine if there was an association between health promotion practice patterns and self-efficacy and outcome expectation summed scores in the 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010. We used ANOVAs and t tests with the focus area behaviors as the dependent variable and demographic variables as the independent factor to determine which variables should be included in the multiple regression analysis (see Tab. 4 footnotes for details of the variables chosen). Then multiple regression was used to determine if self-efficacy and outcome expectations predicted health promotion behaviors by physical therapists in all 4 focus areas.

Table 4.

Multiple Regression Analyses of the Change in R2 When Self-efficacy Expectations (SE) and Outcome Expectations (OE) Are Added to the Model

Results

Descriptive statistics and frequencies were calculated for each state and are outlined in Table 3. Differences were noted across states in the area of ethnicity, with California having 21% non-Caucasian physical therapists and Tennessee having 7% non-Caucasian physical therapists. Of all physical therapy degrees, 54% of the physical therapists had bachelor's degrees, 42% had master's degrees, 3% had clinical doctoral degrees, and only 1 physical therapist had an academic doctoral degree. Differences were noted across states with California having 55% of physical therapists having a master's degree and 39% from New York and 32% from Tennessee. Overall, significant differences were noted among states in the number of hours worked per week. For instance, overall, 37% of the physical therapists worked more than 40 hours per week (46% in Tennessee, 33% in New York, and 32% in California). Furthermore, 34% of the physical therapists worked 31 to 40 hours per week. The most common practice settings were outpatient (52%) and inpatient (26%). Nineteen physical therapists in New York, 8 physical therapists in Tennessee, and 2 physical therapists in California worked in a school setting. The most common practice types were orthopedics (48%), general medicine (21%), and neurology (17%). In addition, 28 physical therapists treated primarily pediatric patients in New York, compared with 15 physical therapists in Tennessee and 14 physical therapists in California.

The total sample was 76.5% female and 85% Caucasian and had a mean age of 38.9 years. Differences were noted across states for age, with physical therapists in California older than those in Tennessee. The median year of graduation was 1993, and the results for this variable differed across states, with median year of graduation being about 3 years earlier in New York than in Tennessee. The mean number of patients seen per hour was 2.0, and the results for this variable differed across states (X̄=2.2 in New York, X̄=2.0 in Tennessee, and X̄=1.9 in California). The mean number of years working in the current setting was 7.1, and the results for this variable also differed across states, with the mean number of years being lower in Tennessee (X̄=6.4) than in California (X̄=7.8) and New York (X̄=7.8).

Overall, the percentage of physical therapists who received health education or health promotion in school was 53%, whereas 29% had attended health education or health promotion continuing education since graduation. Only 20% had obtained a health education or health promotion degree in addition to a physical therapy degree, and the most common additional degree obtained was in the area of exercise science/physiology.

Health Promotion Practice Patterns

As outlined in Table 5, the health promotion behavior believed to be most often practiced by physical therapists was assisting patients with increasing physical activity (54% of the time). The next most often practiced health promotion behavior was assisting with psychological well-being (41% of the time), followed by assisting with nutrition and overweight issues and smoking cessation (19% and 17% of the time).

Table 5.

Means and 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) for Physical Therapist Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectation Scores and Health Promotion Behaviors

Table 5 includes the results of the ANCOVAs across states for perceived health promotion practice patterns in the 4 chosen focus areas (controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, hours per week worked, year of graduation, number of years worked in current setting, patients seen per hour, highest physical therapy degree obtained, and school setting with pediatric patients). The total sample size was reduced from 417 to 331 due to missing data. Physical therapists' health promotion behaviors varied among states in the area of psychological well-being, with a higher mean percentage in California (X̄=48.8%) than in New York (X̄=35.9%). No differences were noted across states in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and overweight, and smoking cessation.

Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectation as Predictors of Practice

The Likert ratings for the items under each self-efficacy and outcome expectation question were added in order to create a summed self-efficacy and outcome expectation score in each area. Some items from each scale were deleted based on preliminary analysis and development of the instrument. This rendered the denominator for each summed scale slightly different (Tab. 5), making it difficult to compare values across topics. Thus, percentages of the possible score are provided in order to allow comparisons among topics. The highest self-efficacy percentage was in the physical activity area, with a score of 51.0 (85.0%) out of a possible score of 60. Nutrition and overweight had a score of 51.3 (71.3%) out of a possible score of 72. Psychological well-being had a score of 49.7 (69.0%) out of a possible score of 72. Smoking cessation had a score of 38.2 (63.7%) out of a possible score of 60. Outcome expectation scores for psychological well-being (15.6 [86.7%] out of a possible score of 18) and nutrition and overweight (19.6 [81.7%] out of a possible score of 24) demonstrated the highest percentages. Following were outcome expectation scores of 17.8 [74.2%] out of a possible score of 24 for smoking cessation and 15.7 [65.4%] out of a possible score of 24 for physical activity.

As outlined in Table 6, positive correlations were noted between health promotion behavior and self-efficacy in all 4 focus areas. (r=.246–.332). Outcome expectation scores demonstrated positive correlations, with the practice behaviors related to psychological well-being and smoking cessation. (r=.119 and r=.155). Other unanticipated correlations are noted in Table 6. For example, smoking self-efficacy and outcome expectation scores were correlated with scores for all 4 health promotion behaviors, and the scores for psychological well-being health promotion behavior were correlated with all outcome expectation scores except in the area of physical activity.

Table 6.

Correlations Between Scores Obtained for Physical Therapist Health Promotion Behaviors and Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectation Scoresa

Results of the multiple regression analyses, as outlined in Table 4, show that, even when demographics and state to state differences were controlled for, self-efficacy and outcome expectations are related with all 4 focus area behaviors. Furthermore, self-efficacy alone was the one variable that predicted perceptions of all 4 practice behaviors, beyond the control variables. Physical therapists' practice was associated with psychological well-being behavior, with the mean percentage being higher for California (X̄=48.8%) than for New York (X̄=35.9%). In addition, treating pediatric patients was associated with smoking cessation behavior, which seems logical in that most pediatric patients are rather young and are nonsmokers.

Other trends noted in the overall analysis were that Tennessee exhibited the highest self-efficacy scores and California exhibited the lowest self-efficacy scores in the areas of psychological well-being, nutrition and overweight, and physical activity (except for New York, which had the lowest physical activity score). For smoking cessation, New York had the highest score and California had the lowest score. Outcome expectation scores were similar across all topics and all states.

Discussion

Health Promotion Practice Patterns

We found that the physical therapists we surveyed believed they assist patients in all of the 4 chosen focus areas of Healthy People 2010, but to varying degrees and with few differences across the 3 states. As expected, the most frequent focus area physical therapists thought they assisted patients with was increasing physical activity, with over 50% of the physical therapists stating they addressed this issue. In addition, 41% of the physical therapists thought they assisted patients in the realm of psychological well-being by reducing feelings of sadness, unhappiness, or depression and by increasing feelings of satisfaction with life. However, the percentage of time physical therapists thought they assisted with nutrition and overweight issues and smoking cessation was low (19% and 17%).

According to Fruth et al,7 the most frequent health promotion statements made during a treatment were in the “physical” category. The “physical” category included the subcategories “nutrition and overweight,” “patient disease/injury,” “exercise,” “smoking,” “rest and relaxation,” “stress,” “sports/fitness,” and “recreation.” Because 3 out of the 4 focus areas addressed in our study (nutrition and overweight, physical activity, and smoking) were covered in just the “physical” category in the study by Fruth et al, it is now possible to see the breakdown of how each of the 3 individual focus areas are being addressed. However, Fruth et al observed physical therapy interventions, and in our study data were self-reported.

With the growing knowledge and emphasis on how to prevent chronic diseases that are due to poor lifestyle choices, the need for health promotion is well established. Many health care professionals, including physical therapists, are needed to lead and develop health promotion plans and strategies in the work force in order to assist the nation in achieving Healthy People 2010 objectives.19,2426 In 1986, Bunker et al27 suggested that health-related behaviors such as cigarette smoking, diet and nutrition, exercise, and stress management should be emphasized over the continuum of time in all health care professions. Health promotion issues that can be addressed in people with disabilities include stress management, smoking cessation, coping strategies, recreational exercise, spirituality, proper sleep habits and medication usage, substance abuse reduction, and good hygiene.28,29

Differences in Health Promotion Practice Patterns Among California, New York, and Tennessee

A national survey30 was conducted on faculty perspectives of health promotion in health care professions curricula. Of all directors of education programs surveyed, 8.8% were from physical therapy programs. Wilson et al30 found that, overall, 93.5% of faculty surveyed indicated that health promotion and disease prevention were either very or somewhat important to academic program goals. Health promotion was more likely to be offered in curricula in the West and Northeast than in the Midwest and South. Thus, it was anticipated that there may be some regional differences in practicing health promotion between California in the Southwest, New York in the Northeast, and Tennessee in the South.

California, New York, and Tennessee were chosen for this study because they represent distinctly different environments in which physical therapists practice. These different situations may influence how physical therapists practice health promotion. In our study, physical therapists' health promotion behaviors varied among states in the area of psychological well-being, with a much higher percentage of physical therapists reporting health promotion behaviors in this area in California than in New York. No differences were noted among the 3 states in the areas of nutrition and overweight, physical activity, and smoking cessation. Thus, the various environments in which physical therapists practice within each state did not appear to alter perceptions of practice behavior, with the exception of the psychological well-being area. Even though the psychological well-being area showed differences, the reasons for these differences can only be speculative.

Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectations as Predictors of Practice

According to SCT,9,10 high self-efficacy and outcome expectations in a specific area are associated with a high frequency of behavior in that area. That is, if confidence in the ability to perform a behavior (self-efficacy) is high and the outcome of that behavior is a desired or positive result (outcome expectation), then the behavior is more likely to occur. Social Cognitive Theory is supported by the results of our study in that the percentage of time physical therapists thought they assisted a patient with a given health promotion topic was most strongly related to the physical therapists' self-efficacy and moderately related to the physical therapists' outcome expectation scores regarding that topic. The only exceptions were that nutrition and overweight and physical activity outcome expectation scores were not associated with the percentage of time physical therapists thought they assisted patients with these topics. The likely reason for the lack of association in the physical activity category is that most physical therapists appear to see physical activity as an intervention no matter what the outcome may be; therefore, outcome scores were low and showed little variation (California=15.6, New York=15.7, and Tennessee=15.9), with a summed score of 65.4% of the total possible score. The reasons for lack of association with nutrition and overweight behavior and outcome expectations are less clear. Thus, outcome expectations do not appear to influence behavior in the nutrition and overweight and physical activity areas. Furthermore, multiple correlations found among self-efficacy scores, outcome expectation scores, and scores for health promotion behaviors across various topics may be due to the scores indicating an overall confidence toward practicing health promotion regardless of the specific behavior. Lastly, self-efficacy alone, when all other control variables were considered, most strongly predicted perceptions in all 4 focus areas.

Because self-efficacy and outcome expectations are associated with perceptions of health promotion practice patterns and self-efficacy alone strongly predicts beliefs about health promotion behaviors of physical therapists in all 4 focus areas, it would seem helpful to develop an action plan that attempts to address self-efficacy and outcome expectations in an intervention. For example, in the survey, items such as adequate education in the area of health promotion, more time allotted per patient, available supportive material for patients, adequate support from a significant other or family, improved physician support, or access to a high-quality referral source were used to create a self-efficacy summed score. By addressing the factors in the survey that were used to create the summed scores for each self-efficacy and outcome expectation in the 4 focus areas, we believe the potential to increase the percentage of physical therapists who practice health promotion behaviors with patients is high.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

One of the strengths of our study was the pilot testing to develop the instrument, although we did not test it for reliability and validity. Another strength of our study was that the demographics of all 3 states combined seemed to parallel nationwide demographics, which indicated to us that we had a good representative sample of physical therapists. Other strengths of the study were an adequate sample size obtained to provide adequate power to detect small effect sizes according to the multiple regression model, a strong theoretical base by using SCT as a framework, and assessment of several regions of the United States. This study was limited by having a cross-sectional design in which physical therapists were not followed over time. Therefore, no causal links can be made between self-efficacy and outcome expectation scores and scores obtained for health promotion practice patterns. Another limitation was the potential for respondent bias, which may have led physical therapists who were interested in the subject matter to respond more than those who were uninterested in the subject matter. In addition, in our study, the data were self-reported with a low return rate, which may have resulted in responses differing from actual practice. Lastly, the results can only be generalized to physical therapists in California, New York, and Tennessee.

Conclusion

Physical therapists are needed to lead and develop health promotion plans and strategies in the work force in order to assist the nation in achieving Healthy People 2010 goals. Physical therapists are addressing health promotion topics with patients, however, in varying degrees and in lower than desirable percentages. This study supports SCT by demonstrating a relationship between what physical therapists believe are health promotion practice patterns and self-efficacy and outcome expectation scores in 4 focus areas of Healthy People 2010. Whether the different state-to-state environments in which physical therapists practice influenced the perceived health promotion practice patterns in the 4 chosen areas can only be speculated upon at this point. This has the potential to assist the physical therapy profession in creating effective means of increasing physical therapists' health promotion practice patterns by addressing the items that improve self-efficacy and outcome expectations.

Appendix.

Appendix.

The Role of Health Promotion in Physical Therapy: Sample Survey Questions for Nutrition and Overweight Focus Area

Footnotes

  • All authors provided concept/idea/research design and writing. Dr Rea provided data collection, and Dr Rea and Dr Hopp Marshak provided data analysis. Dr Rea provided project management, fund procurement, subjects, and clerical support. Dr Hopp Marshak, Dr Neish, and Dr Davis provided consultation (including review of manuscript before submission). The authors acknowledge Susanne Montgomery for assistance with fund procurement and Jerry W Lee, Chair, Department of Health Promotion and Education, Loma Linda University, for providing facilities/equipment.

    This work was approved by the Loma Linda University Institutional Review Board.

    This work was supported by the Center for Health Research, Loma Linda University.

  • * The complete survey questionnaire is available, upon request, from the corresponding author.

  • For further information about the G*Power statistical software program, the reader is referred to: http://www.psycho.uni-duesseldorf.de/aap/projects/gpower/index.html.

  • Received June 20, 2003.
  • Accepted December 12, 2003.

References

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