Medical students' readiness to provide lifestyle counseling for overweight patients

Eat Behav. 2002 Spring;3(1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/s1471-0153(01)00039-3.


In order to assess medical students' readiness to engage in lifestyle counseling regarding nutrition, physical activity, and other health behaviors, the authors examined the knowledge, attitudes, and health behaviors of medical students. The authors analyzed questionnaire responses of 290 medical students in their first, second, or third year. Students were generally knowledgeable about cardiovascular disease risk factors, however they were less knowledgeable about body mass index (BMI) and specific nutrition and physical activity recommendations. Students were confident in the ability of physicians to change patients' health behaviors and had positive attitudes about providing lifestyle counseling. The upper-level students held significantly less positive attitudes than the first-year students. Almost half the sample reported regularly making unhealthy dietary choices. Only 23% of the sample met the public health guidelines for accumulating 30 min of moderate activity on at least 5 days a week. Third-year students engaged in significantly less activity than their underclassmen. Although medical students express positive attitudes toward providing lifestyle counseling, they require more instruction in the areas of weight screening, nutrition, and physical activity recommendations in order to be helpful to their patients. Because physicians who practice health behaviors are more likely to provide counseling, it would be beneficial to integrate an emphasis on student health into medical curricula.