Research

Medical students’ perceptions of global health at the University of Cape Town, South Africa: The gap between interest and education

M Potter, P Naidu, L Pohl, K Chu

Abstract


Background. Global health competencies are an increasingly important part of medical training; however, there is currently no integrated formal global health curriculum at South African (SA) medical schools, and perceptions of medical students towards global health have not been reported. Objectives. To describe SA medical students’: (i) perceptions of global health; (ii) access to global health education (GHE); (iii) awareness of global surgery as a global health priority; and (iv) perceived relevance of select medical specialties to global health.

Methods. Medical students at the University of Cape Town (UCT), SA, were invited to complete a 35-item survey over 2 months in 2018. The survey was designed on REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) and distributed by email. All responses were anonymised and self-reported.
Results. Of 1 640 medical students, 245 (18%) completed the survey. Only 66 (27%) reported GHE in medical school, whereas 213 (87%) reported a career interest in global health. Childhood in a rural setting was a positive predictor of a career interest in global health, while lack of medical resources and infrastructure in resource-limited communities was the most commonly cited barrier to a career in global health. Most students identified family medicine and infectious diseases as the two most important specialties in global health delivery. The majority of students had limited insight into global surgery, which ranked low as a past and future global health priority.

Conclusion. UCT medical students are interested in global health careers, but lack formalised GHE or global surgery education during their medical studies to support and encourage integrating global health into their future careers.


Authors' affiliations

M Potter, Livingstone Hospital, Gqeberha, South Africa

P Naidu, Centre for Global Surgery, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

L Pohl, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

K Chu, Centre for Global Surgery, Department of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town; and Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2021;13(4):229. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2021.v13i4.138

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-01-28
Date published: 2022-01-28

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