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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 156-162

Medical students' perceived educational needs to prevent and treat childhood obesity

Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA

Correspondence Address:
Natalie K Cooke
Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 7624, Raleigh, NC 27695
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_57_16

Background: Medical schools are challenged to incorporate more prevention-based education into curricula, offering an opportunity to revisit approaches to nutrition education. The objective of this study was to explore United States (US) medical students' understanding of childhood obesity, specifically barriers to childhood obesity prevention and treatment and students' perceived educational deficits. Methods: The research team conducted phone interviews with 78 3rd- and 4th-year medical students, representing 25 different medical schools across the US. Using a semi-structured interview guide, researchers asked students to describe the etiology of childhood obesity and reflect on where they acquired knowledge of the etiology and what additional resources they would need to treat obese children. Using a phenomenological approach to analysis, researchers identified five dominant emergent themes. Results: Student-perceived barriers to childhood obesity prevention and treatment in clinical care included student-centered (e.g., lack of knowledge), patient-centered (e.g., lack of access), and healthcare system-centered barriers (e.g., limited time). Students requested more applicable nutrition information and counseling skills relevant to preventing and treating childhood obesity; however, they tended to identify others (e.g., parents, schools), rather than themselves, when asked to describe how childhood obesity should be prevented or treated. Discussion: To provide students with an understanding of their role in preventing and treating childhood obesity, US medical schools need to provide students with childhood obesity-specific and general nutrition education. To build their self-efficacy in nutrition counseling, schools can use a combination of observation and practice led by skilled physicians and other healthcare providers. Increasing students' self-efficacy through training may help them overcome perceived barriers to childhood obesity prevention and treatment.

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