Department of Public Health Sciences

Willingness to provide behavioral health recommendations: a cross-sectional study of entering medical students

McCurdy SA

BMC Medical Education. 2012. 12(1):1-7.

BACKGROUND: Behavioral factors contribute importantly to morbidity and mortality, and physicians are trusted sources for information on reducing associated risks. Unfortunately, many clinical encounters do not include prevention counseling, and medical school curriculum plays an important role in training and promoting such counseling among medical students. METHODS: We surveyed all 93 freshman medical students at entry to the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in 2009 to evaluate baseline knowledge of population health principles and examine their approach to clinical situations involving four common behavioral risk factors illustrated in brief clinical vignettes: smoking, alcohol use in a patient with indications of alcoholism, diet and exercise in an overweight sedentary patient, and a 16-year-old contemplating initiation of sexual intercourse. Based on vignette responses, we assessed willingness to (1) provide information on risks, (2) recommend elimination of the behavior as the most efficacious means for reducing risk, (3) include strategies apart from elimination of the behavior for lowering risk (i.e., harm reduction), and (4) assure of their intention to continue care whether or not recommendations are accepted. RESULTS: Students answered correctly 71.4 % (median; interquartile range 66.7 % - 85.7 %) of clinical prevention and population health knowledge questions; men scored higher than women (median 83.3 % vs. 66.7 %, p



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