Journal: Medical Education Author: Madeline McDonald, Conor Lavelle, Mei Wen, Jonathan Sherbino, Jennifer Hulme Publication Date: Aug 2019 Volume Number: epub ahead Issue: of print
Description: CONTEXT:

Health advocacy is an essential component of postgraduate medical education, and is part of many physician competency frameworks such as the Canadian Medical Education Directives for Specialists (CanMEDS) roles. There is little consensus about how advocacy should be taught and assessed in the postgraduate context. There are no consolidated guides to assist in the design and implementation of postgraduate health advocacy curricula.


This scoping review aims to identify and analyse existing literature pertaining to health advocacy education and assessment in postgraduate medicine. We specifically sought to summarise themes from the literature that may be useful to medical educators to inform further health advocacy curriculum interventions.


MEDLINE, Embase and ERIC were searched using MeSH (medical student headings) and non-MeSH search terms. Additional articles were found using forward snowballing. The grey literature search included Google and relevant stakeholder websites, regulatory bodies, physician associations, government agencies and academic institutions. We followed a stepwise scoping review methodology, followed by thematic analysis using an inductive approach.


Of the 123 documents reviewed in full, five major themes emerged: (i) conceptions of health advocacy have evolved towards advocating with rather than for patients, communities and populations; (ii) longitudinal curricula were less common but appeared the most promising, often linked to scholarly or policy objectives; (iii) hands-on, immersive opportunities build competence and confidence; (iv) community-identified needs and partnerships are increasingly considered in designing curriculum, and (v) resident-led and motivated programmes appear to engage residents and allow for achievement of stated outcomes. There remain significant challenges to assessment of health advocacy competencies, and assessment tools for macro-level health advocacy were notably absent.


There is considerable heterogeneity in the way health advocacy is taught, assessed and incorporated into postgraduate curricula across programmes and disciplines. We consolidated recommendations from the literature to inform further health advocacy curriculum design, implementation and assessment.
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