The need for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and holistic approaches in allopathic medical school curricula has been well articulated. Despite increased CAM instruction, feasible and validated instruments for measuring learner outcomes in this content area do not widely exist. In addition, baseline attitudes or beliefs of medical students towards CAM, and the factors that may have formed them, including use of CAM itself, remain unreported.
A 10-item measure (CHBQ – CAM Health Belief Questionnaire) was constructed and administered to three successive classes of medical students simultaneously with the previously validated 29-item Integrative Medicine Attitude Questionnaire (IMAQ). Both measures were imbedded in a baseline needs assessment questionnaire. Demographic and other data were collected on students' use of CAM modalities and their awareness and use of primary CAM information resources. Analysis of CHBQ items was performed and its reliability and criterion-related validity were established.
Response rate was 96.5% (272 of 282 students studied). The shorter CHBQ compared favorably with the longer IMAQ in internal consistency reliability. Cronbach's coefficient alpha was 0.75 and 0.83 for the CHBQ and IMAQ respectively. Students showed positive attitudes/beliefs towards CAM and high levels of self-reported CAM use. The majority (73.5%) of students reported using at least one CAM modality, and 54% reported using at least two modalities. Eighty-one percent use the internet as a primary source of information for CAM.
The CHBQ is a practical, valid and reliable instrument for measuring medical student attitudes/beliefs and has potential utility for measuring the impact of CAM instruction. Medical students showed a high self-reported rate of CAM use and positive attitudes towards CAM. Short, didactic exposure to CAM instruction in the first year of medical school did not additionally impact these already positive attitudes. Unlike the IMAQ, which was intended for use with physicians, the CHBQ is generic in design and content and applicable to a variety of learner types. Evaluation measures must be appropriate for specific CAM instructional outcomes.