Objectives: Negative attitudes toward people with disabilities, including cerebral palsy, may be related to misunderstandings or lack of knowledge about the disability. If held by medical practitioners, they can have detrimental implications for the care of people with disabilities. The purposes of this study were to examine the knowledge and attitudes of medical students regarding cerebral palsy and to examine the effects of the videotape ‘Understanding Cerebral Palsy’ on these two areas.
Methods: The attitudes and knowledge regarding cerebral palsy of 54 medical students in their penultimate year were measured before and after watching a video produced to educate health professionals about cerebral palsy. They were assessed using a self-administered questionnaire constructed specifically for the study, adapted from previously validated questionnaires.
Results: These medical students generally had limited knowledge about cerebral palsy and displayed negative attitudes toward people with cerebral palsy. It was also found that males had less positive attitudes than females (P = 0.014) and that students educated mainly in Asia had less positive attitudes than students educated mainly in Australia (P = 0.012). The videotape was shown to be effective in improving the students’ knowledge about cerebral palsy. A small but significant improvement in attitudes was also shown (P = 0.014), with the attitudes of some students improving dramatically. However, negative attitudes remained in many.
Conclusions: Based on the findings, structured teaching about cerebral palsy is necessary within the medical curriculum at the University of Melbourne. Greater promotion of positive attitudes toward people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities is required.