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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

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