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Behaviour Change Management and Unhealthy Behaviours: A Qualitative Study of Beliefs held by Undergraduate Medical Students

Clifford, Kate (2011) Behaviour Change Management and Unhealthy Behaviours: A Qualitative Study of Beliefs held by Undergraduate Medical Students. University of Bath.

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Abstract

It has been estimated that around 50% of deaths can be attributed primarily to unhealthy behaviour; a number that could be vastly reduced with effective behaviour change management (BCM) and preventative care. However, research has demonstrated that GPs hold negative views towards BCM and thus do not utilise these methods as often as they should (Bruce & Burnett, 1991; Chisholm, 2009). Despite this, behaviour change (BC) training remains infrequent in undergraduate medical education. The aim of the study was to explore undergraduate medical students’ beliefs surrounding BCM and to identify any links or discrepancies that may exist between those who have received BC training and those who have not. Fifty-eight undergraduate medical students completed a qualitative questionnaire designed to gain a comprehensive understanding of such beliefs. Nineteen of the participants had taken part in a BC training session whilst 39 had no such training. Responses were coded and analysed using thematic analysis and 6 themes were identified: the importance of BCM; the ‘burden’ of preventable disease to the NHS and society; appropriate BC methods; inappropriate BC methods; the doctor-patient relationship and responsibility. Differing attitudes were seen in those who had received BC training and those who had not. The findings provide an account of some of the beliefs surrounding BCM that currently exist in the undergraduate medical population. The results also provide support for the inclusion of structured BC training within undergraduate medical education. It is hoped that with the inclusion of such training, the next generation of doctors will be able to better understand and apply BCM, and that some of the negative views that currently exist in doctors and undergraduates will cease to be barriers in the future.

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