Investigating, designing and developing obesity management education within medical schools

  • Anna Chisholm

    Student thesis: Unknown


    Objectives: Obesity-related illnesses are a major public health concern. Although doctors are expected to discuss obesity and health-related behaviour change with patients, they report being unprepared by medical education to do this effectively. Healthcare settings provide an opportunity to help patients tackle unhealthy behaviours and make the necessary changes to improve their health and longevity. This programme of research aims to investigate and improve current obesity management education for medical students. It also aims to identify whether the existing evidence-base on behaviour change techniques has been used to inform educational interventions in this area. Five separate studies were conducted in order to investigate obesity management education for medical students, identify challenges and solutions to its integration within medical schools, and then design and test a novel educational intervention in this area. Methods: Two systematic reviews were conducted to investigate relevant educational interventions about obesity management in terms of a) their efficacy and b) their educational content. A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with medical educators (n = 27) was conducted to explore key challenges to integrating this education into medical schools in Ireland and the UK. The final two studies involved designing and validating a communication tool based upon behaviour change techniques, and subsequently evaluating this within an educational intervention in a before-and-after feasibility study (n = 34 medical students). Results: Findings from the systematic reviews illustrated that educational interventions addressing obesity management for medical students are rare. Robust empirical evaluations are scarce, and on the whole authors report using little behaviour change theory or evidence to inform their interventions. Barriers to integrating obesity management education into medical schools may relate to the diverse and opportunistic manner in which it is currently delivered within medical schools; varied support for its inclusion, and varied medical student engagement in the topic. Taking into account these issues, findings of the feasibility study suggest that it is possible to deliver theory- and evidence-based obesity management education to medical students. This educational intervention was delivered consistently by clinical tutors, it was acceptable and valued by students, and results suggest that participants would go on to discuss obesity management with patients and use desired communication skills within such interactions.Conclusions: The available evidence-base on obesity management educational interventions for medical students is poor. However, it is possible to design and deliver this education within an existing undergraduate medical programme. Further research is required to investigate the efficacy and effectiveness of such an intervention in practice.
    Date of Award31 Dec 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorSarah Peters (Supervisor) & Joanne Hart (Supervisor)


    • Health behaviour change
    • Medical education
    • Obesity

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