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International short-term medical missions: a systematic review of recommended practices


  • Stephanie D. Roche

    () (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center)

  • Pavinarmatha Ketheeswaran

    (Florida International University)

  • Veronika J. Wirtz

    (Boston University School of Public Health)


Abstract Objectives To identify practices for conducting international short-term medical missions (STMMs) recommended in the literature and examine how these link STMMs to recipient countries’ existing health systems. Methods Systematic review of PubMed-indexed articles on STMMs and their bibliographies using preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines. Recommendations were organized using the World Health Organization Health Systems Framework. Results In 92 publications, 67 % offered at least one recommendation that would link STMMs to the recipient country’s health system. Among these recommendations, most focused on service delivery and few on health financing and governance. There is a lack of consensus around a proper standard of care, patient selection, and trip duration. Conclusions Comprehensive global standards are needed for STMM work to ensure that services are beneficial both to patients and to the broader healthcare systems of recipient countries. By providing an overview of the current recommendations and important gaps where practice recommendations are needed, this study can provide relevant input into the development of global standards for STMMs.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephanie D. Roche & Pavinarmatha Ketheeswaran & Veronika J. Wirtz, 2017. "International short-term medical missions: a systematic review of recommended practices," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 62(1), pages 31-42, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:ijphth:v:62:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s00038-016-0889-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s00038-016-0889-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2014.301983_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Berry, Nicole S., 2014. "Did we do good? NGOs, conflicts of interest and the evaluation of short-term medical missions in Sololá, Guatemala," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 344-351.
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    Medical missions; Global health; Standards;


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