How well do medical students understand their patients?
Jean Adams makes a case for a life experience strategy to help medical students overcome an essential lack of knowledge
Alistair Darling, the British secretary of state for social security, recently cited the fact that 40% of children in Britain are born into poverty as a central reason for welfare reform.1 This figure, based on poverty being defined as a “total income below half the average income” has now been widely quoted and discussed.2 Most people have some awareness of what this means: poor nutrition, increased exposure to cigarette smoke and environmental pollution, lack of safe play areas, increased risk of infection, unemployment, and so on. I believe, that most of today's medical students know very little about the way of life of these children and their families, and that this has implications for the treatment of these future patients.
Most medical students in Britain today come from middle class (British RegistrarGeneral social classes I and II) backgrounds.3 Although this makes for high academic achievement and a stable financial atmosphere