(HealthDay News) — Health coaching by medical assistants can help improve hemoglobin A1c and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol control, according to a study published in the March/April issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Rachel Willard-Grace, MPH, from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues conducted a 12-month randomized controlled trial involving 441 patients at two safety net primary care clinics. The authors compared in-clinic health coaching by medical assistants with usual care for control of hemoglobin A1c, systolic blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol.

The researchers found that the likelihood of achieving the primary composite measure of one of the clinical goals was higher for participants in the coaching arm (46.4 vs. 34.3%; P=0.02). The secondary composite measure of reaching all clinical goals was also higher in the coaching arm (34 vs. 24.7%; P=0.05). The hemoglobin A1c goal was achieved by almost twice as many coached patients (48.6 vs. 27.6%; P=0.01). Coached patients were more likely to achieve the LDL cholesterol goal at the larger study site (41.8 vs. 25.4%; P=0.04). There was no significant difference in the proportion of patients meeting the systolic blood pressure goal.

“Our results highlight the need to understand the relationship between patients’ clinical conditions, interventions, and the contextual features of implementation,” the authors write.

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