The Cost of Integrating a Physical Activity Counselor in the Primary Health Care Team

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Abstract

Objective

This article assesses direct costs of integrating a physical activity counselor (PAC) into primary health care teams to improve physical activity levels of inactive patients.

Methods

A monthly cost analysis was conducted using data from 120 inactive patients, aged 18 to 69 years, who were recruited from a community-based family medicine practice. Relevant cost items for the intensive counseling group included (1) office expenses; (2) equipment purchases; (3) operating costs; (4) costs of training the PAC; and (5) labor costs. Physical and human capital were amortized over a 5-year horizon at a discount rate of 5%.

Results

Integrating a PAC into the primary health care team incurred an estimated one-time cost of CA$91.43 per participant per month. Results were very sensitive to the number of patients counseled.

Conclusions

The costs associated with the intervention are lower than many other intervention studies attempting to improve population physical activity levels. Demonstrating this competitive cost base should encourage additional research to assess the effectiveness of integrating a PAC into primary health care teams to promote active living among patients who do not meet recommended physical activity levels.

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