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Developing physical activity counselling practices in primary care

Purpose of this project was to develop physical activity practices in four municipal health centres in Pirkanmaa district using Physical Activity Prescription.


In previous studies the Finnish Physical Activity Prescription (PAP) has been proven feasible and effective in promoting physical activity (PA) in routine health care practices. However, local efforts are needed to facilitate adoption of PAP among health care providers.


The development project was implemented at local level in health centres
• to increase health care providers’ knowledge about physical activity (PA), health and behavioural counselling
• to increase physical activity (PA) counselling and its documenting in electronic patient records
• to improve counselling practices by facilitating the uptake of Physical Activity Prescription (PAP)
• to enhance collaboration between counselling providers.


Four municipal health centres in Pirkanmaa district participated in the development project. A multi-professional team was nominated in each health centre to take the responsibility for the 6-month development process.
The researchers supported the team with:
• baseline and follow-up evaluation
• one whole-staff training session
• four goal-oriented tutor meetings
• e-mailed tasks in-between.
In the end of the development process a meeting was held in each health centre to summarize the outcomes and to plan further actions.


Outcome evaluation is based on:
• baseline and follow-up questionnaires to the health care staff
• counselling logs completed by the health care staff
• a questionnaire to the patients
• telephone interview to the third sector agents
The main outcomes are:
• knowledge about physical activity and behavioural counselling
• the frequency and contents of physical activity counselling
• the frequency of using PAP
• the frequency of documenting physical activity counselling in the patient records
• collaboration between counselling providers
Process evaluation is based on the meeting minutes of the responsible teams and tutor meetings. They will help to explain the underlying factors promoting or preventing change.



Tools and materials 

During the development project a working tool kit was developed, including assessment questionnaire, logs, and working manual to guide multiprofessional team through the process. The tool kit Liikuntaneuvonta yhteiseksi asiaksi – Liikkumisresepti käyttöön (in Finnish) is freely available in web www.ukkinstituutti,fi/liikkumisresepti.

Physical Activity Prescription is a tool for the physicians to initiate discussion about physical activity with the patient and to refer the patient to other health or exercise professional for more detailed action-planning and follow-up.

Physical Activity Prescription (PAP) for adults  a form to fil in online. 


Minna Aittasalo, Senior Researcher 
Research group: Erja Toropainen, Minna Aittasalo, Katriina Kukkonen-Harjula, Marjo Rinne, Tommi Vasankari 


 Aittasalo M, Kukkonen-Harjula K, Toropainen E, Rinne M, Tokola K, Vasankari T. Developing physical activity counselling in primary care through participatory action approach. BMC Family Practice 2016;17:141 

For all publications of this research, see the Finnish description. To find the list of publications “Julkaisuja”, scroll the page down. To open the publication links, click “Lue lisaa” and “Lue julkaisu”. 

Last updated: 2.11.2020

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