The utility of a health risk assessment in providing care for a rural free clinic population
Scariati, Paula D
MetadataShow full item record
Background Free clinics are an important part of our country's health safety net, serving a working poor uninsured population. With limited resources and heavily dependent upon volunteer health care providers, these clinics have historically focused on stopgap, band-aid solutions to the population's health problems. Embracing a new paradigm, free clinics are now prioritizing resources for disease prevention and health promotion. Methods We initiated a Healthy Friday Clinic project in a rural, southwest Virginia free clinic. The clinic operated every Friday and was open to all people eligible for care in the free clinic. Each participant completed a 43 question Health Risk Appraisal which was used to calculate current risk age (age as determined by current lifestyle choices), optimal risk age (age with optimal lifestyle choices) and potential risk years gained (current risk age - optimal risk age) as well as a ranked listing of modifiable risk factors. Results The total sum of potential risk years gained in the free clinic population of 186 subjects was 371.4. Frequency distributions on potential risk years gained by each of the eleven modifiable risk factors revealed the following, in order of impact: quitting smoking could result in a total of 173.5 risk years gained; reducing alcohol consumption, 64.2 years gained; reducing blood pressure, 50.8 years gained; increasing seatbelt use, 38.2 years gained; weight reduction, 24.7 years gained; having regular mammograms, 6.8 years gained; reducing cholesterol levels, 5.8 years gained; reducing frequency of speeding while driving, 3.5 years gained; having regular pap tests, 2.3 years gained; improving HDL levels, 0.9 years gained; and reducing use of smokeless tobacco, 0.8 years gained. Each person received an individualized letter explaining his evaluation along with resources for making changes. Discussion Health risk assessments play a role in changing health beliefs and behaviors by providing subjects with individualized feedback on how their lifestyle choices impact their health and well-being. Summed data from health risk appraisals can also be a useful tool in determining the allocation of limited health resources. Whether health risk assessments impact health outcomes directly needs to be studied.