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As a reflection on the Edinburgh Declaration, this conceptual synthesis presents six important challenges in relation to the role of medical education in meeting current national health priorities. CONTEXT: This paper presents a conceptual synthesis of current efforts in medical education to incorporate national health priorities as a reflection on how the field has evolved since the Edinburgh Declaration. Considering that health needs vary from country to country, our paper focuses on three broad and cross-cutting themes: health equity, health systems strengthening, and changing patterns of disease. METHODS: Considering the complexity of this topic, we conducted a targeted search to broadly sample and critically review the literature in two phases. Phase 1: within each theme, we assessed the current challenges in the field of medical education to meet the health priority. Phase 2: a search for various strategies in undergraduate and postgraduate education that have been tested in an effort to address the identified challenges. We conducted a qualitative synthesis of the literature followed by mapping of the identified challenges within each of the three themes with targeted efforts. FINDINGS: We identified six important challenges: (i) mismatch between the need for generalist models of health care and medical education curricula's specialist focus; (ii) attitudes of health care providers contributing to disparities in health care; (iii) the lack of a universal approach in preparing medical students for 21st century health systems; (iv) the inability of medical education to keep up with the abundance of new health care technologies; (v) a mismatch between educational requirements for integrated care and poorly integrated, specialised health care systems; and (vi) development of a globally interdependent education system to meet global health challenges. Examples of efforts being made to address these challenges are offered. DISCUSSION: Although strategies for combatting these challenges exist, the effectiveness of educational models depends on them being locally adaptable and applicable. Curricular reform must go hand-in-hand with research and evaluation to develop comprehensive futuristic models of teaching and learning that will adequately prepare health professionals to address the challenges.

Original publication




Journal article


Med Educ

Publication Date





24 - 33


Curriculum, Delivery of Health Care, Education, Medical, Undergraduate, Global Health, Health Personnel, Health Priorities, Healthcare Disparities, Humans, Models, Educational, Students, Medical