Think global, act local: medical students contextualize global health education

Educ Health (Abingdon). 2014 Jan-Apr;27(1):55-8. doi: 10.4103/1357-6283.134315.


Background: There is considerable heterogeneity in the extent to which global health education is emphasized in undergraduate medical curricula. Here, we performed an exploratory analysis to test the hypothesis that exposure to global health education may influence the attitudes of medical students toward the treatment of local vulnerable patient populations.

Methods: All pre-clerkship students at an urban Canadian university were invited to attend a voluntary global health education session on challenges in treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the developing world. Those who attended as well as those who did not completed pre- and post-session surveys measuring willingness to treat patients with HIV and related attitudes. A repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed to assess the effect of the intervention on attitudes toward locally affected populations.

Results: A total of 201 (81.4%) and 143 (58.3%) students completed the pre- and post-session surveys, respectively. Students who scored their willingness to treat patients with HIV within highest 10% of the scale on the pre-session survey were excluded from the analysis to account for a ceiling effect. On repeated measure ANOVA, willingness to treat local patients with HIV increased significantly following the session (P < 0.01). Students intending to attend the session also reported a greater propensity to treat patients with HIV than those who did not (P = 0.03).

Discussion: In this exploratory study, we find that following exposure to a global health lecture on the challenges of HIV in the developing world, students possessed more favorable attitudes toward the treatment of marginalized local patient populations, a finding that may be exploited in undergraduate and continuing medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Curriculum
  • Developing Countries
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods
  • Female
  • Global Health / education*
  • HIV Infections / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult