Objective: The documented decline in age at menarche is concerning as early pubertal development presents immediate and long-term health risks. Menarcheal timing is influenced by environmental factors, necessitating the importance of increased education within the health sciences curricula. This study examined health professions students’ awareness and knowledge of menarche, including factors that influence age at menarche and the health risks associated with early menarche (⩽11 years). Design: A mixed retrospective/prospective analysis using an on-line survey was employed to explore student knowledge. Setting: A public university in USA. Methods: Students enrolled in a general nutrition course at a US university were invited to complete a survey during class time. Pearson correlations were used to assess relationships among variables. Independent-samples t-tests compared knowledge to identify differences by gender and race, and χ2 tests compared frequency of correct knowledge answers according to race. Results: Participants included 126 students (88% female, 50% Caucasian), the majority (90%) of whom were enrolled in health sciences programmes. Nearly 25% of female participants reported early menarche; yet, reported age at menarche was not related to knowledge (r = –.056, n = 110, p >.05). Future health risks of early menarche were correctly identified by 16.7% of participants, all women. Knowledge of menarche differed according to race (p <.05). Conclusion: Discovery of knowledge gaps in this population may improve curriculum design and, ultimately, better prepare students for a future in health care. Future clinicians may benefit from training that addresses factors that influence pubertal timing and familiarises them with the health risks associated with earlier menarche. There is a need for knowledgeable and skilled health workers, which is why the inclusion of this subject in the preservice training curriculum is important.
- Health professions
- health risks
- pubertal timing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health