World health officials meeting in Scotland this past week reached an unusual conclusion: Many countries have too many doctors trained to cure people and not enough doctors trying to keep them from getting sick in the first place.

Speakers at a conference of the World Federation of Medical Education said they want to see a major change in medical education. They said doctors should be trained in disease prevention and also in how to pass that knowledge along to their patients.It's increasingly clear that personal habits and lifestyles have more to do with health than dispensing the right kind of medicines. Smoking, drinking, diet, and exercise are recognized as significant factors in the sickness or well-being of people.

Certain deadly diseases, such as lung cancer and heart ailments, for example, could be reduced drastically if people didn't smoke. And it's cheaper and easier by far to prevent disease, rather than try to cope with an illness once it has struck.

As the medical officials in Scotland pointed out, ways must be found to give people the knowledge to improve their own health.

This means a different attitude on the part of physicians as well as their patients. Henry Walton, president of the World Federation for Medical Education, said that too often, doctors don't listen to patients or consider how to keep them fit. "They only think about them when they are ill."

Health and sickness aren't two separate worlds; they are part of the same person, and doctors need to pay just as much attention to one as they do to the other.