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Are Physicians on your Marketing Team?

by Daniel on July 5th, 2012

Fitness facilities are about to have their best opportunity ever to make physicians in their market areas active producers of new exercising members. After years of talk, physicians and exercise professionals are finally beginning to cooperate to further the health of individuals in their community. This month will mark the beginning of that new relationship for many facilities that are willing to take advantage of it.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health

The Surgeon General’s Report (SGR) will be released any day now as the most powerful encapsulation, ever, of the scientific knowledge of the benefits of exercise and the dangers of remaining inactive. The SGR will not go unheralded.

Powerful support for the SGR’s message

Suppose your principal product — exercise — had the support of the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and dozens of other prestigious national associations and agencies. Of course, you already have the moral support of these organizations, but they are about to make a lot more noise about the necessity of exercise. Funded by the CDC, these organizations are preparing a multipronged publicity effort as a National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.

Physicians are concerned, and could use help

Surveys of physicians’ health-promotion attitudes and their practices in advising their patients were conducted in Massachusetts in 1981 and 1994 (The New England Journal of Medicine, April 11, 1996). The number of physicians who viewed aerobic activity at least three times a week to be very important for the average person grew by 37 percent from one survey to the next. But, the reporters of the surveys said that while “the majority of physicians reported feeling ‘very prepared’ to counsel patients about…exercise,” … “only a small minority (4 to 13 percent) described themselves as currently ‘very successful’ in helping patients change their behavior in any area.”

Although physicians feel inadequate in getting patients to change, I recall findings from an IHRSA survey a few years ago in which a sizable majority of people said they would begin an exercise program if their physician recommended it.

Successful club-physician relationships we have reported in past issues of Fitness Management seem to have three things in common: 1) A program and staff that inspire physician confidence, 2) a simple mechanism for referral and 3) a convenient way for the physician to get feedback on the patient’s activity.

Journal of the American Medical Association exercise theme issue

JAMA is scheduled to dedicate the articles in its July 17, 1996, issue to exercise and health. Virtually all physicians in the U.S. receive the journal. If you call attention to this upcoming issue in your communications to local physicians, it not only may help in their education, but will identify you as an alert professional.

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