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Randomized controlled trial of a computer-tailored multiple health behaviour intervention in general practice: 12-month follow-up results

Sanjoti Parekh1*, David King2, Frances M Boyle3 and Corneel Vandelanotte4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland 4006, Australia

2 School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia

3 Head of Social Science & Health Systems Group, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia

4 Director, Centre for Physical Activity Studies, NHF & NHMRC Research Fellow, Institute for Health and Social Science Research Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:41  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-41

Published: 19 March 2014



Effective strategies to address risk factors of non-communicable diseases are required to curtail the expanding costs of health care. This trial tested the effectiveness over one year of a minimal intervention targeting multiple health behaviours (diet, physical activity, alcohol and smoking) in a general practice setting, through the provision of personalised, computer-tailored feedback.


Patients who had attended a general practice in the previous 6 months were recruited from 21 general practitioners in Brisbane, Australia. Baseline data were collected using self-reports on adherence to ten health behaviours and summarised into a health score from 0 to 10. This randomised controlled trial used a 2×2 factorial design, with one arm randomising subjects to the intervention or control group. The other arm was either feedback at baseline (single contact) or an additional assessment with feedback at 3 months (dual contact). As such, 4 study groups created were, to which participants were randomised blindly: A. Intervention with single contact; B. Intervention with dual contact; C. Control with single contact and D. Control with dual contact. All participants were assessed again at 12 months.


Of the 4676 participants randomised, 3065 completed questionnaires at 12 months. Both single and dual contact groups improved their 10 item health scores (+0.31 and +0.49 respectively) relative to control group outcomes (+0.02; p < 0.01). Improvement in adherence to guidelines for fish intake, type of milk consumed, vegetable and fruit intake, and alcohol intake were observed in single and dual contact intervention groups (p < 0.01). Both intervention groups showed greater improvement than controls for individual health behaviours, apart from red meat intake, smoking behaviour, physical activity and body weight. Interestingly, there was an improvement in reported non-smoking rates in both intervention and control groups (3% single contact; 4.5% dual contact).


Small but meaningful long-term changes in health behaviours can be achieved with a low-intensity intervention, which may reduce health care costs if implemented on a large scale. Further research is needed to better understand the mechanism by which maintenance of behaviour change can be achieved.

Trial Registration

The Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611001213932.

General practice; Prevention; Non-communicable disease; Computer-tailored; Randomised controlled trial