Social medicine is an interdisciplinary medical field which connects the health status of an individual patient or a group of patients with a certain disease. It studies the health of the population and the care of health within the framework of the whole society. It asks three basic questions: What is the health of the population? Why is it so? What can improve it? When we began to teach this subject field in English, we had to adapt the curriculum so that it was culturally sensitive and provided students with the opportunity to study various approaches to systems of health care so that the students could show fellow classmates the specifics of the health care in their home country. We endeavored to highlight three important aspects. The first concerned linking social medicine with clinical medicine and clinical fields. The second was close cooperation with preventive medicine (see the topic of the type of citizen´s heath) and the third was, and still is, how the patient or individual views his or her own state of health and healthcare. The interest of students had been gradually rising, and when some 95% of students signed up for the optional state exam in social medicine (involving defending of a thesis – not a very common practice at other medical schools), the management of our faculty decided that the state exam in this subject will again become compulsory for all students, including those from abroad.
The Department of Social Medicine provides instruction for students of general medicine. Classes are held in the winter terms of the 2nd and 5th study year. For those who are interested, we also offer this subject as an elective in the summer term of the 5th study year. At the end of the 5th study year, the students go for a week-long stay at a general practitioner of their own choosing. At the end of the 6th study year, the whole subject is reviewed and appears as part of the state exam on preventive medicine.
The Department of Social Medicine, within the framework of a separate division, teaches students in the 2nd year of the medical program and, in cooperation with the University Hospital, in the first through third year of the bachelor’s degree program in General Nursing.
Principal research programs
The main research program is the psychosocial and medical problems of children and adolescents. We do research on pain in children, how adolescents and children cope with difficult situations, social support for children and adolescents, and the quality of life in children and adolescents. Another focus of research is a broad international study financed by the World Health Organization – Health Behavior in School-Aged Children, 2010. The second research program, which ran from 2009 to 2011, concerned psychosocial problems in the adult population, specifically how individuals viewed their own illnesses. The third research program, begun in 2012 and still being undertaken, is financed by the PRVOUK 37/09 project of the Charles University. It focuses on the psychosocial and health problems of senior citizens. The fourth research program, begun in 2007 and still active, is devoted to improving the work of practicing doctors. We studied the approach of general practitioners to the prevention of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases (an international comparative study in the countries of Middle and Eastern Europe).