Major Public Health Issue as a Vehicle for Interprofessional Curriculum: A Simulated Obesity Module Involving Seven Disciplines

Publication ID Published Volume
9317 January 22, 2013 9


This resource seeks to continue the longitudinal development of a modular and portable curriculum in interprofessional health sciences education. This is a curriculum that prepares health sciences students for teamwork in treating patients with the leading public health problem in America: obesity. This curriculum involves a patient case, simulated patient training, faculty development for the case activity and associated learning resources. This module offers the opportunity to learn (a) from other healthcare professionals, (b) about health sciences disciples, and (c) teamwork and communication with peer health science learners. This module is portable and adaptable to most academic health centers; we have run this curriculum with up to 375 learners, utilizing 75 faculty members from all of the disciplines over a 4-day timeframe.

This interprofessional teaching curriculum is effective and significant for many reasons. From a knowledge standpoint, it offers state of the art scientifically proven facts about the biochemistry of obesity, the hormonal control of hunger and satiety, and the role that depression, stress, and sleep deprivation play in the generation and maintenance of obesity. It helps students understand the role of the life style changes of diet and exercise and how these impact obesity, or more correctly, how they fail to treat large populations of obese patients and highlights the challenges that lay ahead. As an alternative to life style changes, students learn about the surgical approach to obesity and how bariatric surgery is becoming more and more popular and effective in treating obesity and preventing the metabolic complications that accompany it. Students in this obesity curriculum begin to learn the skill of working with other health sciences students who will one day be their colleagues in a team-based health care delivery system. Students begin to learn the value of what other health disciplines “bring to the table” and begin to understand that not only is the perspective of other disciplines different than their own, their focus and approach to treatment, although different than their own, offers alternative approaches and opportunities for therapy that they were perhaps not aware of.

This curriculum allows students to learn about the other health sciences disciplines and thus gain a better understanding of the education and training someone from a different discipline goes through. Through this understanding, attitudes will hopefully change, and biases and prejudices will evaporate long before having a chance to coalesce and become ingrained in a students’ mind. The effectiveness of this curriculum in strengthened by the heterogeneous nature of it. The combination of large group plenary sessions, small group discussion groups, and team based and patient panels offer a variety of opportunities to learn about obesity in several different ways. The plenary sessions and Grand Rounds afford the most opportunity for gaining knowledge. The facilitated small group simulated case discussions offer students the opportunity to develop the skills needed when caring for patients with obesity both in the hospital and the ambulatory clinic. The patient panel is an especially effective way to help students perhaps change their attitudes towards the problem of obesity in this country. Hearing the success individuals have had in their struggle with obesity should offer the kind of optimistic outlook we would want our students to have as they begin their real world training in clinical care. The significance of this curriculum is that it represents ground breaking curriculum in interprofessional education at the University of Iowa. It demonstrates to Deans and other administrators that interprofessional education at the University of Iowa Health Sciences campus can work, does work, and should be expanded as new curricula in all of the health sciences is developed. Student Survey Results 2007 – 2011 Longitudinal tracking of student perceptions of the interdisciplinary cases demonstrates improvement over time, with a 2001 mean of 3.36 on a scale of 1 through 5.


Wickham G, Gordon J, Kelly M, et al. Major public health issue as a vehicle for interprofessional curriculum: a simulated obesity module involving seven disciplines. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2013;9:9317.

Contains Information Suitable for Patient Education

Educational Objectives

  1. To understand various health discipline perspectives about the societal impact of the obesity epidemic in the United States.
  2. To appreciate the roles of other professions in addressing obesity disease dynamics.
  3. To develop communication skills with the team members in pursuit of clarifying each member’s responsibility in executing components of an evaluation and treatment plan for obesity.
  4. To appreciate the value of working with an interprofessional team and the value of collaborative effort.
  5. To utilized the unique and complimentary abilities of all team members to optimize the assessment of obesity and develop a culturally competent, patient specific treatment plan.


  • Obesity, Interprofessional Education Collaboration (IPEC)

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ISSN 2374-8265