A social ecological approach to promote learning health disparities in the clinical years: impact of a home-visiting educational program for medical students

Doron Sagi, Mary Catharine Joy Rudolf, Sivan Spitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: There is consensus that medical schools have a duty to educate students about social determinants of health (SDOH) and equip them with skills required to ameliorate health disparities. Although the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) urged the development of experiential long term programs, teaching is usually conducted in the pre-clinical years or as voluntary courses. ETGAR a required health disparities course, based on the social ecological model, was initiated to answer the NAM call. This study aimed to ascertain the course impact on students learning of SDOH and health disparities. Methods: Students during their first clinical year cared for four patients in their transition from hospital back home, one patient in each internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology rotation. The students home-visited their patients after meeting them in hospital and preparing a plain language discharge letter. Training session prior to the course, a tutorial in each rotation, and structured feedback gave the educational envelope. Mixed methodology was employed to evaluate the course impact. Quantitative data collected by students during the home-visit: patients’ characteristics and quality and safety of the transition back home using the Medication Discrepancy Tool and Care Transition Measure questionnaire. Stakeholders’ views were collected via interviews and focus groups with students representing all affiliated hospitals, and interviews with heads of departments most involved in the course. Results: Three hundred six students in three academic years, between October 2016–July 2019, completed home visits for 485 disadvantaged patients with improvement in patients’ knowledge of their treatment (3.2 (0.96) vs 3.8 (0.57), Z = -7.12, p <.0001) and identification of medication discrepancies in 42% of visits. Four themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: contribution to learning, experience-based learning, professional identity formation, and course implementation. Conclusions: ETGAR was perceived to complement hospital-based learning, making students witness the interaction between patients’ circumstances and health and exposing them to four patients’ environment levels. It provided a didactic framework for promoting awareness to SDOH and tools and behaviors required to ameliorate their impact on health and health disparities. The course combined communication and community learning into traditionally bio-medical clinical years and serves as a model for how social-ecology approaches can be integrated into the curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Article number698
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Experiential learning
  • Healthcare disparities
  • Home visit
  • Pre-graduate medical education
  • Social determinants of health
  • Social ecology


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