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Structural Competency: Curriculum for Medical Students, Residents, and Interprofessional Teams on the Structural Factors That Produce Health Disparities.

  • Author(s): Neff, Joshua;
  • Holmes, Seth M;
  • Knight, Kelly R;
  • Strong, Shirley;
  • Thompson-Lastad, Ariana;
  • McGuinness, Cara;
  • Duncan, Laura;
  • Saxena, Nimish;
  • Harvey, Michael J;
  • Langford, Alice;
  • Carey-Simms, Katiana L;
  • Minahan, Sara N;
  • Satterwhite, Shannon;
  • Ruppel, Caitlin;
  • Lee, Sonia;
  • Walkover, Lillian;
  • De Avila, Jorge;
  • Lewis, Brett;
  • Matthews, Jenifer;
  • Nelson, Nicholas
  • et al.
Abstract

Introduction

Research on disparities in health and health care has demonstrated that social, economic, and political factors are key drivers of poor health outcomes. Yet the role of such structural forces on health and health care has been incorporated unevenly into medical training. The framework of structural competency offers a paradigm for training health professionals to recognize and respond to the impact of upstream, structural factors on patient health and health care.

Methods

We report on a brief, interprofessional structural competency curriculum implemented in 32 distinct instances between 2015 and 2017 throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In consultation with medical and interprofessional education experts, we developed open-ended, written-response surveys to qualitatively evaluate this curriculum's impact on participants. Qualitative data from 15 iterations were analyzed via directed thematic analysis, coding language, and concepts to identify key themes.

Results

Three core themes emerged from analysis of participants' comments. First, participants valued the curriculum's focus on the application of the structural competency framework in real-world clinical, community, and policy contexts. Second, participants with clinical experience (residents, fellows, and faculty) reported that the curriculum helped them reframe how they thought about patients. Third, participants reported feeling reconnected to their original motivations for entering the health professions.

Discussion

This structural competency curriculum fills a gap in health professional education by equipping learners to understand and respond to the role that social, economic, and political structural factors play in patient and community health.

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