Preventive behavioral counseling could trim costs, waste over time

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A new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) calls for primary care physicians to begin offering behavioral counseling on healthy lifestyles to patients with low cardiovascular disease risks. The method serves to prevent the onset of the condition and reduce costs.

The full report, published July 11 in JAMA, is based on evidence that shows educating and training people on healthy eating and physical activity can reduce severe cardiac events. The counseling is recommended for patients who don’t suffer from obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, or diabetes.

USPSTF is an independent, volunteer organization that works to improve preventive healthcare services, including counseling and screening programs. Prevention initiatives have been shown to reduce waste and costs in healthcare across the board.

In the report, USPSTF outlines evidence that counseling interventions are effective in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Education on improving diets through more fruit and vegetable consumption, maintaining a healthy daily caloric and salt intake, and increasing physical activity were all shown to be beneficial. Besides these benefits, studies also found that there is nothing harmful about providing behavioral counseling. Among 14 trials, no adverse events were reported.

“The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that behavioral counseling interventions to promote a healthful diet and physical activity have a small net benefit in adults without obesity who do not have specific common risk factors for CVD,” USPSTF said in a statement. “Although the correlation among healthful diet, physical activity, and CVD incidence is strong, existing evidence indicates that the health benefit of behavioral counseling to promote a healthful diet and physical activity among adults without obesity who do not have these specific CVD risk factors is small.”