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German medical students lack knowledge of how to treat smoking and problem drinking

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Aim  To assess the extent of undergraduate medical training on alcohol use disorders (AUD) and smoking, and medical students' perceived knowledge regarding consequences of, and treatment options for, these disorders compared with other chronic conditions.

Design  Cross‐sectional survey assessing teaching and perceived knowledge of health consequences and treatment options for AUD and smoking compared with diabetes and hypertension.

Setting  Medical schools in Germany.

Participants  Twenty‐five of 36 medical school offices (response rate 69.4%) and 19 526 of 39 358 students from 27 medical schools (response rate 49.6%).

Measurement  Medical schools were asked to provide information on curricular coverage of the four conditions. Students reported their year of study and perceived knowledge about the consequences of all four disorders and perceived knowledge of treatment options.

Findings  Courses time‐tabled approximately half as many teaching hours on AUD and tobacco as on diabetes or hypertension. Final‐year students reported high levels of knowledge of consequences of all four conditions and how to treat diabetes and hypertension, but only 20% believed they knew how to treat alcohol use disorders or smoking.

Conclusions  Curriculum coverage in German medical schools of alcohol use disorders and smoking is half that of diabetes and hypertension, and in the final year of their undergraduate training most students reported inadequate knowledge of how to intervene to address them.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Cardiology and Pneumology, University Hospital Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, 2: German Cancer Research Center, Unit Cancer Prevention and WHO Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control, Heidelberg, Germany, 3: Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Campus Virchow Klinikum and Campus Charité Mitte, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 4: Department of Medical Statistics, University Hospital Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, 5: Department of Haematology and Oncology, University Hospital Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, 6: Department of Legal Medicine, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany, 7: Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London, UK 8: UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2012


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