New Medicine for the U.S. Health Care System: Training Physicians for Structural Interventions

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Abstract

Structural competency provides a language and theoretical framework to promote institutional-level interventions by clinical practitioners working with community organizations, non-health-sector institutions, and policy makers. The special collection of articles on structural competency in this issue of Academic Medicine addresses the need to move from theory to an appraisal of core educational interventions that operationalize the goals of and foster structural competency. In this Commentary, the authors review the role of clinical practitioners in enhancing population-level health outcomes through collaborations with professionals in fields outside medicine, including the social sciences and law. They describe the core elements of structural competency in preclinical and clinical education, as illustrated by the articles of this special collection: perceiving the structural causes of patients’ disease, envisioning structural interventions, and cultivating alliances with non-health-sector agencies that can implement structural interventions. Finally, the authors argue that preparing trainees to form partnerships will empower them to influence the social determinants of their patients’ health and reduce health inequalities.

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