Why our risk factor and behaviour change leaflets are evolving

Our reimagined patient information series will deliver more targeted information and improve the support we provide.

5 November 2018, by Amy Corkery

New risk factor and behaviour change leaflets 

In the minutes and hours after your patient learns they have a health condition, or a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, they have real questions about why this happened and how it could affect their health.

It’s why the BHF produces patient information resources. You may be familiar with some of our leaflets and booklets on risk factors and behaviour change. Following in-depth research of these materials, including feedback from patients and healthcare professionals, it became clear that we could develop more targeted and streamlined approach.

In the past, patients received the bulk of our information at the point of diagnosis. Our research revealed that they are handed multiple print resources at once, covering everything from treatment to healthy eating.

But patients may initially still be in shock. They may have lower literacy levels. Exposure to so much content at a critical point can leave them feeling overwhelmed and less inclined to engage with the material. Patients told us that understanding and managing their condition can, at this early stage, feel like a huge challenge to overcome.

This insight prompted the need for a fresh approach, framed around a clearly defined patient pathway that responds to different patient needs at different points in time.

A new approach

At diagnosis, patients are more likely to engage with basic, introductory information that focuses on understanding their diagnosis and why making changes will improve their health.

In-depth information about a condition is important. But this is more appropriate at a later stage, when the patient is potentially calmer and more able to process information.

The initial basic information should signpost to further reading, for example on medication, treatment, recovery or dietary advice, therefore giving the patient a choice and allowing them to access the information at a time right for them. Only later, sometimes much later, are patients often ready to take steps towards self-management. It’s then that comprehensive information about how to make changes becomes relevant.

We also learned that patients value understanding how their behaviour is linked to their health, to build motivation, and that visual graphics showing what is going on inside their body can aid this understanding.

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We realised we need to be providing support in manageable chunks, allowing patients to access and process the information at the times they need it most, rather than saturating them with information shortly after diagnosis.

By providing a large print portfolio and a lot of online content with no clear user journey, we give a patient too much choice at a time when they really need simplicity and clarity.  A smaller selection of streamlined print resources that points directly towards relevant digital information is more beneficial.

In response, we have split our new portfolio into three clear stages:

  • understanding the condition
  • identifying an area of behaviour to change
  • showing how to make practical, sustainable changes

This approach tested well with our research group, as did colourful, graphic-led new designs and simple front covers.

So we have spent the past year streamlining and merging our resources, reducing our print portfolio from more than 40 items to a core suit of 16, with supporting digital content.

The first publications in our new-look series are our ‘Understanding risk factors’ titles: high blood pressure, cholesterol, Type-2 diabetes, stress, weight, physical inactivity and smoking. These are available to order today.

Soon, you will also be able to order resources about alcohol, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Further publications will follow in the coming months.

New animations that help patients understand high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes are also now online, and we have developed a new online toolkit on portion control as well as new inspiring case study films.

We hope you and your patients can soon benefit from this redesigned and reimagined patient information journey towards better health.

Order or download now

Amy Corkery is Editor, Patient Information at the BHF