Original Research

Chronic diseases of lifestyle curriculum: Students’ perceptions in primary health care settings

Sanet van Zyl, Willem H. Kruger, Corinna M. Walsh
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 15, No 1 | a3775 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v15i1.3775 | © 2023 Sanet van Zyl, Willem H. Kruger, Corinna M. Walsh | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2022 | Published: 31 January 2023

About the author(s)

Sanet van Zyl, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Willem H. Kruger, Department of Community Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Corinna M. Walsh, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Community-based primary health care (PHC) forms the foundation of healthcare in South Africa. Medical programmes need to equip future health practitioners to face the challenges of the rising burden of chronic diseases of lifestyle (CDL) in different communities. Community-based education (CBE) contributes to developing knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the challenges experienced in the PHC context.

Aim: To explore medical students’ perceptions of the current CDL curriculum and related programmes during CBE rotations.

Setting: The study was conducted among fourth- and fifth-year medical students at the University of the Free State, South Africa.

Methods: Focus group discussions were conducted and data were analysed thematically.

Results: Themes included perceptions of the CDL curriculum, relevance thereof for the PHC setting and barriers and challenges to implementing PHC programmes. This study identified foundational CDL content that needs to be incorporated or revisited at strategic points. Participants identified the need to contextualise educational programmes and focus on affordable, culturally acceptable and holistic healthcare prevention strategies. Barriers and challenges included high patient load, resource constraints, the lack of continuous care and focus on communicable diseases. Community-based education rotations were described as meaningful opportunities to develop professional attributes, competencies and skills.

Conclusion: This study identified foundational concepts to consider at key points throughout the curriculum. Incorporating creative and reflective learning activities in CDL modules can prepare students for the realities of PHC settings.

Contribution: This study provides insight into medical students’ perceptions of the CDL curriculum and informs future curriculum content for CDL modules.


Keywords

Chronic diseases of lifestyle; medical curriculum; community-based education; primary health care.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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