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Stamford, Conn. – Nov. 7, 2013 – AmeriCares recently surveyed medical professionals who volunteer outside the United States to learn more about their practices and sustainability plans. The research is a first step toward developing guidelines and best practices in medical volunteerism – a project AmeriCares recently launched with support from the Godley Family Foundation.
The 38-question online survey was sent to more than 1,500 medical volunteers who have received donated medicines and supplies from the AmeriCares Medical Outreach program within the last two years. Thirty six percent responded. AmeriCares Medical Outreach provides donated medicines and supplies to over 1,000 medical teams working in more than 70 countries every year. Medical volunteers provide an array of services during these charitable trips including surgeries and primary, specialty and dental care services that are often unavailable or inaccessible locally due to cost or distance. More than 800,000 patients received treatment and over 40,000 surgeries were performed last year with medicines and supplies from AmeriCares.
“The majority of medical volunteers have a shared goal to improve the health care services in the communities they serve,” said Ann Sawyer, associate director of AmeriCares Medical Outreach program. “Many survey participants expressed a need for additional resources, as well as a desire to create guidelines for medical missions. With hundreds of thousands of U.S.-based physicians working overseas, promoting best practices in medical volunteerism has the potential to be a game-changer in global health.”
The survey found volunteers often take different approaches to trip preparation, feedback and training for medical staff in host communities. For example, more than 80 percent of the medical volunteers surveyed said improving local health care capacity is a priority, yet the most common method cited for helping local health care professionals is leaving educational materials or equipment behind after they leave. Going forward, AmeriCares seeks to encourage collaboration between volunteer medical teams and offer teaching and assessment tools that will help maximize their impact.