Practical and relevant self-report measures of patient health behaviors for primary care research

Russell E. Glasgow, Marcia G. Ory, Lisa M. Klesges, Maribel Cifuentes, Douglas H. Fernald, Larry A. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: With increasing evidence for the value of behavior change counseling, there is a need for health behavior measurements that can be implemented in primary care research. This article discusses criteria for and reviews self-report measures to briefly assess cigarette smoking, eating patterns, physical activity, and risky drinking across the life course. It then proposes pragmatic measures for use in practice-based research. METHODS: Drawing from literature reviews, previous multisite studies, personal communications with experts in the field, and guidance from an expert panel, we identified self-report behavior change measures and gave priority to items that addressed Healthy People 2010 goals, as well as those that were practical (ie, shorter, and easier to score and use for intervention), were sensitive to change, and produced results that could directly inform primary care intervention. RESULTS: Separate recommendations are described for measures for adults and for children/adolescents. We recommend a set of 22 items for adults and 16 items for adolescents to track succinctly their status on the 4 health behaviors above. Perfected measures remain elusive: newly developed measures of physical activity and eating patterns are recommended, and in general, the brief measures for adults are currently better validated than are the child measures. CONCLUSIONS: A set of totally satisfactory practical instruments for measuring behavior change in primary care settings does not yet exist. There is sufficient progress to encourage use of and further research on the proposed items. Use of a common set of items across different interventions and projects will help to advance clinical and behavioral research in primary care settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Health behavior
  • Needs assessment
  • Primary health care
  • Review
  • Risk factors


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