The Health Risk Appraisal instrument links life-style factors with the probability of death by comparing an individual's profile to national averages. The result, usually generated by computer, is used to counsel the individual to modify risk factors that could lead to disease. This paper reviews the validity of the Health Risk Appraisal, its reliability, and its effect on health behavior. While the results of observational studies support the efficacy of the Health Risk Appraisal, more controlled studies have not been able to demonstrate a strong effect. Methodological problems are briefly discussed. Although there are valid criticisms leveled at the procedure, the Health Risk Appraisal has become quite popular as a health education tool and may represent the future in preventive care.
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