Experts published in October’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) supplement several pieces arguing that medical education must put greater emphasis on public health and prevention to ensure that future physicians can serve the changing health needs of patients and their communities in the best way possible.

The supplement emerged from a conference called “Patients and Populations: Public Health in Medical Education,” that was organized by the AAMC and CDC in 2010 in order to strengthen the commitment between public health and academic medicine alliances and is sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to their introductory essay, supplement editors Rika Maeshiro, MD, MPH, of AAMC; Denise Koo, MD, MPH of CDC; and C. William Keck, MD, MPH, of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, in Rootstown, Ohio state, that physicians’ training in the past often did not include public and population health as well as preventions aspects. However, they continue saying that:

“. . . . efforts to develop health professionals who can improve health, and not just deliver health care, should be a continuing priority for the academic medicine and public health communities.”

They highlight the pressing need for physicians “with a better appreciation for these issues to help address complex public health challenges that include rising chronic disease burdens, persistent health disparities, and healthcare financing that encourages treatment over prevention.”

Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD, President of the Institute of Medicine writes in a comment that even though public health and medicine tackle the health and health care challenge from specific, complementary angles:

“(many initiatives)”are bringing the principles, values, experience, and analytic perspectives of public health into the daily practice of medical education.”

Detailed descriptions on initiative’s strategies to integrate public health, practices and prevention details into medical education can be found in several of the supplement’s papers.

In his essay, John E. Prescott, MD, AAMC Chief Academic Officer emphasizes that this trend needs to be more widespread by saying:

“Producing better physicians for the future clearly requires a reconsideration of their education.”

He comments that in the future physicians have to be “skilled team players, who excel in systems-based practice, who provide patient-centered care, and who can work with and in their communities to improve health.”

Judith Monroe, MD, the Director of CDC’s Office for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support supports Prescott’s view in her essay, commenting:

“There is power in the collaboration of medicine and public health, and we need to find better ways to harness this power to meet our current and future challenges.”

Written by Petra Rattue