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Med Educ. 2017 Sep 7. doi: 10.1111/medu.13394. [Epub ahead of print]

Coordinating medical education and health care systems: the power of the social accountability approach.

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Programme of Human Resources for Health, Sciez-sur-Léman, France.



As the purpose of medical education is to produce graduates able to most effectively address people's health concerns, there is general agreement that coordination with the health care system is essential. For too long, coordination has been dealt with in a subjective manner with only few landmarks to ensure objective and measurable achievements. Over the last 30 years, since the Edinburgh Declaration on medical education, progress has been made, namely with the concept of social accountability.


The social accountability approach provides a way to plan, deliver and assess medical education with the explicit aim to contribute to effective, equitable and sustainable health system development. It is based on a system-wide scope exploring issues from identification of people's and society's health needs to verification of the effects of medical education in meeting those needs. A wide international consultation among medical education leaders led to the adoption of the Global Consensus on Social Accountability of Medical Schools.


Benchmarks of social accountability are in the process of being conceived and tested, enabling medical schools to steer medical education in a more purposeful way in relation to determinants of health. A sample of schools using the social accountability approach claims to have had a positive influence on health care system performance and people's health status.


Improved coordination of medical education and other key stakeholders in the health system is an important challenge for medical schools as well as for countries confronted with an urgent need for optimal use of their health workforce. There is growing interest worldwide in defining policies and strategies and supporting experiences in this regard.

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