Supporting patients to make the best lifestyle choices - Making Every Contact Count

A new Health Research Board funded research project will provide evidence that will help to guide and shape the roll out of the Health Service Executive's Make Every Contact Count programme.

Professor Molly Byrne

The Make Every Contact Count (MECC) programme aims to train all healthcare professionals to use routine consultations to help patients recognise and change lifestyle behaviours that may be contributing to their ill health.

During routine consultations and when appropriate, health professionals will ask patients about lifestyle behaviours related to chronic disease and deliver brief interventions. Through these contacts the programme aims to help and support patients to achieve positive long-term behaviour change.

Professor Molly Byrne, NUI Galway, a HRB Research Leader, and the Principal Investigator on the award adds,

'This Applied Partnership Award allows us to build on our three years of work and collaboration with the Health Service Executive that went into designing the Making Every Contact Count programme. The MECC programme is based upon the most up-to-date international evidence. Our collaboration was made possible in the first place by the Research Leader Award that I received from the HRB. It gave me the time and scope to develop relationships and conduct research in this vital area. This new award will now allow us to continue and expand upon the research component and ensure that the roll out and implementation programme will itself be driven by and guided by the best national and international evidence'.

Dr Darrin Morrissey, Chief Executive of the Health Research Board adds,

'One of Sláintecare's central aims is to deliver a service that is given by the right team at low or no charge to the patient. This project will provide the most up-to-date research available to inform one of the HSE's most significant chronic disease prevention initiatives so that the health service can deliver the maximum benefit from every single interaction between patients and health professionals’.

By next March, approximately 2,000 healthcare professionals will have received the initial tranche of training and will be applying the programme in their work. Professor Byrne continues,

'We will survey and interview healthcare professionals to find out what makes it easy or difficult to support patients in making healthier lifestyle choices. We will interview patients to find out their experience of discussing health behaviours and receiving support to change their behaviour during routine healthcare contacts. And we will continue to review the international literature so that we can combine all of this information to further develop the MECC implementation strategy'.

Dr Maria O'Brien, the Programme Manager for MECC, and the Knowledge User on the funding award, adds

'80% of general practice (GP) consultations and 60% of hospital bed days relate to chronic diseases. Healthier lifestyle behaviours can play a significant role in reducing both the incidence and severity of many of these conditions.

'Making Every Contact Count is one of the most significant national programmes in recent years aiming to address the unsustainable pressure chronic disease treatment puts on the current health services. Our collaboration with Professor Byrne's team at the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway will ensure that the implementation of this programme is systematic and evidence-based, which ultimately, will support health professionals to help patients achieve positive long-term behaviour change'.

'This project clearly demonstrates the benefits of the HRB's structured approach to integrating research into Ireland's health service delivery' continues Dr Morrissey. ‘One of the goals of Professor Byrne's original Research Leader Award was to accelerate the translation and/or implementation of research knowledge into tangible changes in a real world setting for the benefit of people’s health and patient care. This new project clearly builds upon and strengthens that goal of the original award. Patients are going to be the clear winners as a result of this work’.

This is one of six new Applied Partnership Award projects that the HRB is supporting. The Applied Partnership Awards are designed to bring knowledge users and academic researchers together to develop research projects that address a specific and short-term need within the Irish health or social care system.


For further information please contact Gillian Markey, HRB, at e m +353 87 2888514.

Or to speak to Professor Byrne, contact Gwen O’Sullivan, NUIG, e t 353 (0)91 495695.

More information about Making Every Contact Count can be found at:

The main health behaviours that health professionals will talk about are:

  • tobacco use
  • alcohol and drug use
  • healthy eating
  • physical activity

About HRB

The HRB is the lead funding agency for health research in Ireland. It also manages four national health information systems in the areas of drug use, drug deaths, disability and psychiatric inpatient reporting. The HRB Evidence Centre conducts reviews for the Department of Health to inform health policy making. We also manage the HRB National Drug Library.