The covariation of multiple risk factors in primary care: a latent class analysis

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Abstract

There is a need to advance the quality of healthcare by increasing knowledge about multiple risk factors and how to intervene to improve health outcomes. In an effort to better describe the presentation of multiple risks, this study involved a database review to describe the prevalence and covariation of multiple risk factors in individuals presenting to primary care. Patients with a primary care encounter from January 1, 2005 to June 30, 2005 (N — 10,043) were identified from the Department of Veteran's Affair's medical database and information about the following risk factors was extracted: alcohol use, psychiatric distress, body mass, smoking status, blood pressure, and posttraumatic stress. Exploratory and confirmatory latent class analyses identified three classes of individuals. Class 1 consisted of individuals with an overall lower level of risk for health problems, but a moderately high likelihood of elevated blood pressure. Individuals in Class 2 appeared to have the greatest need for intervention because they had a moderate to high likelihood of reporting at risk alcohol use, smoking, depression, and posttraumatic stress. Class 3 consisted of individuals reporting the co-occurrence of at risk alcohol use, smoking, and elevated blood pressure. Similar to past research, the findings highlight the need for addressing multiple risk factors in primary care. In addition, this study expands on the literature by identifying specific patterns of covariation among different risk factors that suggest avenues for research and program development.

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