The Institute of Medicine's Committee on Behavioral and Social Sciences in Medical School Curricula identified 20 high-priority topics in six domains that medical schools should integrate into medical students' training:
Mind-body interactions in health and disease: Biological mediators between psychological and social factors and health; psychological, social and behavioral factors in chronic disease; psychological and social aspects of human development that influence disease and illness; and psychosocial aspects of pain.
Patient behavior: Health-risk behaviors; principles of behavior change; and impact of psychosocial stressors and psychiatric disorders on other illnesses and on health behavior.
Physician role and behavior: Ethical guidelines for professional behavior; personal values, attitudes and biases as they influence patient care; physician well-being; social accountability and responsibility; work in health-care teams and organizations; use of and linkage with community resources to enhance patient care.
Physician-patient relationship: Basic and complex communication skills.
Social and cultural issues in health care: Impact of social inequalities in health care; social factors that are determinants of health outcomes; and cultural competency.
Health policy and economics: Overview of U.S. health-care system; economic incentives affecting patients' health-related behaviors; costs, cost-effectiveness and physician responses to financial incentives.
--D. SMITH BAILEY