What Students Bring to Medical School

Attitudes Toward Health Promotion and Prevention

Published in: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, v. 18, no. 3, 2000, p. 242-248

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1999

by Patricia A. Bellas, Steven M. Asch, Michael Wilkes

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INTRODUCTION: Health care providers' positive attitudes toward prevention and health promotion are important in achieving national health care goals. Limited studies of incoming medical students have been conducted that measure predictors of positive attitudes toward health promotion and prevention. METHODS: Data were obtained from a 1993 curriculum evaluation survey of first-year students at five different medical schools in California. Attitudes toward health promotion and prevention were measured using a nine-question Prevention Attitude Scale (PAS). The authors developed 2 multivariate linear regression models using demographics, education choices, and personal social values and beliefs to predict PAS scores. They also performed bivariate analysis. RESULTS: Five hundred ninety-nine completed surveys were analyzed, with a response rate of 95%. Mean PAS score was 36.47 3.7 on a 0 to 44 scale. Female gender, Democratic party preference, and a planned specialty choice in preventive medicine or primary care predicted the highest PAS scores on bivariate analysis ( p < 0.002). Significant correlation ( p < 0.001) was shown between PAS scores and 2 additional scales regarding beliefs in associations of social factors and illness and in the importance of caring for the poor. Linear regression model using personal social values and beliefs explained 34% of the variance, as opposed to the demographic model that explained only 9% of the variance. CONCLUSIONS: In the schools studied, participating first-year medical students had moderately positive attitudes toward health promotion and prevention, as measured by PAS scores. In designing curriculum to improve medical students' attitudes toward health promotion and prevention, medical educators may need to consider other personal and social values held by medical students and to address the political aspects of health promotion and prevention. Future studies are needed to longitudinally follow medical student attitudes.

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