Promoting active practice: medical students in action
Physical Inactivity is a major public health concern and both the RCGP and PHE have launched campaigns to promote physical activity as part of the wider move to encourage general practice to adopt social prescribing [1, 2]. Physical activity prescribing and promotion can be potentially very effective in the primary care context . Concurrently UK medical education core curricula are being updated, both generally and for Primary Care, with learning outcomes linked to physical activity. We opportunistically devised an Active Practice assignment for our 2nd year medical students as part of our new longitudinal GP placement. This involves students responding to the local needs of both the practice and its demographic through establishing physical activity improvement initiatives for staff, patients and local populations. In addition to contextualising the importance of social prescribing, a broad range of learning outcomes are met in this way, including the development of professionalism and quality improvement, leadership and teamwork skills.
Groups of eight second-year students across 25 practices in SE London undertake the Active Practice assignment, embedded within their longitudinal GP placement of 24 Tuesdays. The assignment is complemented by clinical exposure to primary care, seminars and campus-based teaching on health promotion, behaviour change and healthy eating. Each practice has two student active practice champions that lead their student team: they attend workshops and are supported by GP mentors. They are asked to review their practice and patient population to assess needs, local opportunities and links, and provided with various resources and feedback from their mentors. GP tutors and their practice team are expected to be supportive and guide students regarding sustainable interventions at the practice. Assessment of the assignment is through a group presentation and written reflection, based on one or more of the aims to:• Reduce sedentary behaviour of staff • Reduce sedentary behaviour of patients • Increase physical activity of staff • Increase physical activity of patients • Increase engagement with community groups
Data will be presented on the activities to promote physical activity in each of the 25 practices, the sustainability of what has been developed and the impact as well as the challenges for the students, their mentors and the practice teams.
The Active Practice assignment gives second year medical students a role in establishing social prescribing in Primary Care, enabling the development of protocols and promotion of physical activity. There are also broader opportunities for leadership and experience in managing change.