The primary objective in medical training remains skill development in the delivery of medical care through the understanding of bedside data collection, natural history of disease, use of diagnostic tools and the influence of therapy--all applied to a specific patient. More recently, also considered important is training on the broader issues of health care delivery and public policy, especially since the environment of medicine is changing rapidly. With limited curricular time these issues must compete with the traditional and important clinical training. To evaluate how these subjects have been included in internal medicine training, the Resident Physicians Section (RPS) of the American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM) sponsored a survey of United States internal medicine chief residents which was conducted by the Internal Medicine Center to Advance Research and Education (IMCARE). The objectives of the study were to 1) study the extent of training on health care delivery and public policy issues offered to residents by internal medicine residency programs; 2) assess training opportunities now available; and 3) determine areas of study not fulfilling perceived needs. The questionnaire contained 12 questions. Chief residents rated the 1) quality of their program in preparing residents on health care delivery, public policy issues and practice management; 2) level of instruction provided on 12 topics; and 3) degree of priority these same topics should have. Respondents were asked to identify 1) any other relevant areas their residency program covered particularly well; 2) the amount of time which should be devoted to these socioeconomic topics in each year of training; and 3) the most appealing formats for learning about these topics. Despite the rapidly growing influence of socioeconomic issues on medical practice, many chief residents perceive that important topics are not being addressed adequately. This study provides information on areas addressed well and topics that should receive greater attention. Recommendations are made for further studies and strategies to increase the emphasis on socioeconomic topics during medical education.