• health promotion;
  • lifestyle advice;
  • risk factors;
  • practice nurses;
  • primary care;
  • postal questionnaire;
  • patient's needs;
  • mass media

Background/rationale.  Since 1990 health promotion and lifestyle advice has been integrated in general practice and has been mainly undertaken by practice nurses. However little is known about patients' views of the service provided.

Aims of the study.  To examine patients' recall and perceptions of lifestyle counselling received from practice nurses in a general practice in the North-east of England. To investigate the extent to which patients' needs are met. To assess the main sources of health information sought by patients.

Design/methods.  Cross-sectional descriptive survey. A total of 512 patients were sent a postal questionnaire about current lifestyle, recall of lifestyle advice received and perceptions of the advice provided.

Findings.  A response rate of 64% was achieved. Questionnaire analysis revealed unhealthy lifestyles among the population studied that could be addressed through health promotion, e.g. 25% were smokers; 44% exercised occasionally; 40% had a body mass index >25 kg/m 2 . Advice received on diet was reported by 6% of patients; on exercise by 4%; on smoking by 4% and on alcohol consumption by 2%. Patients were willing to receive more health promotion in areas such as stress, exercise and weight reduction. Magazines (67%) and TV (47%) were selected as the main sources for health promotion information.

Conclusions.  Health needs to be promoted. The low rate of lifestyle advice reported by the patients implies that more preventive advice should be provided in primary care settings. More effective health promotion should be planned according to the needs of the practice population.