Med Schools Could Put Students' Health Behavior and Prevention Training Higher on Their Agendas

Promoting healthy behaviors among medical students
    • April 26, 2004

From 2002 to 2003, researchers at the American Medical Student Association Foundation, in collaboration with researchers at Emory University School of Medicine, assessed students' and deans' attitudes about student health programs and prevention training at 16 medical schools.

Researchers collected data through focus groups of medical students and primary care deans and a national survey of deans at medical schools. They also identified best practices in promoting healthy behaviors at medical schools through a literature review and information from other institutions and individuals.

Key Findings

  • Deans and students tended to agree that physicians need additional prevention training, and that their lifestyles are relevant to effective patient counseling.

  • Although deans uniformly "agreed strongly" that physicians have a responsibility to promote prevention with patients, students were not as strong in their agreement.

Key Recommendations

Project staff listed the following as important elements in medical school interventions to achieve better student health and prevention instruction:

  • Mentoring of students should be done by caring, concerned faculty.

  • Teach disease prevention through the personal experiences of faculty, students and others.

  • Incorporate the teaching of prevention throughout the curriculum; for example, teach skin cancer prevention during dermatology.

  • Provide opportunities for students to experience and reinforce healthy lifestyles through such activities as:

    • Special exercise classes and gym memberships.
    • Group meal preparation.
    • Substitutions for alcohol-related events.
  • Adopt a mission and/or philosophy to protect and facilitate students' wellness, emphasizing the preparation of primary care practitioners.