Researchers Natalie N Anderson and Anna R Gagliardi from the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute have released a new study analyzing the curricula of various Canadian medical schools to assess how many included women’s health principles and practices relevant to any health concern or condition including factors (e.g. sex, gender, social determinants) that influence health, and access to or quality of care.
Background: Women’s health (WH) includes a broad array of concerns and challenges that affect health across the lifespan. Considerable research shows that women continue to experience disparities in access to and quality of care. Apart from surveys of medical trainees and faculty, little research and none in Canada examined medical curriculum for WH. This study assessed how Canadian medical schools integrate WH in their curriculum.
Methods: We used deductive and summative content analysis to describe instances and the nature of WH topics in program and course descriptions that were publicly-available on web sites of Canadian medical schools. We reported results using summary statistics and text examples. We employed a framework, tested in our prior research, that included mention of women’s health principles and practices relevant to any health concern or condition including factors (e.g. sex, gender, social determinants) that influence health, and access to or quality of care.
Results: We retrieved 1459 documents from 16 medical schools (median 49.5, range 16 to 301). Few mentioned WH (125, 8.6 %), and the quantity of mentions varied by school (range 0.0-37.5 %). Pre-clerkship course documents more frequently mentioned WH (61/374, 17.3 %, chi square 43.2, p < 0.00001) compared with clerkship course documents (58/1067, 5.4 %). Core course documents more frequently mentioned WH (72/542, 13.3 %, chi square 29.0, p < 0.00001) compared with elective course documents WH (47/899, 5.2 %). Overall, documents more frequently referred to the WH domain of social determinants of health (88, 70.4 %). Few documents addressed women’s health (21, 16.8 %), sex or gender (19, 15.2 %), other considerations (15.2 %) or principles/components of women’s health (2, 1.6 %). Most documents that mentioned WH provided little detail about what those concepts referred to or how to optimize WH.
Conclusions: Based on program and course descriptions, WH may not be well-integrated at Canadian medical schools, and future physicians may not be consistently exposed to the full breadth of WH. This reveals opportunities for enhancing WH in the medical curriculum. Future research is needed to engage stakeholders including women in developing, implementing and evaluating competencies and corresponding curriculum that reflect the full range of WH concepts and practices.