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Open Access Research article

A comparative study of Taiwan's short-term medical missions to the South Pacific and Central America

Ya-Wen Chiu12*, Yi-Hao Weng3, Chih-Fu Chen4, Chun-Yuh Yang5, Hung-Yi Chiou6 and Ming-Liang Lee7

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Preventive Medicine and Health Services Research, Institute of Population Health Sciences, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli, Taiwan

2 Master Program in Global Health and Development, College of Public Health and Nutrition, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan

3 Department of Pediatrics, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan

4 International Cooperation and Development Fund, Taipei, Taiwan

5 Department of Public Health, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

6 School of Public Health, College of Public Health and Nutrition, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan

7 Taiwan Health Corps, Taipei, Taiwan

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2012, 12:37  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-12-37

Published: 27 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Taiwan has been dispatching an increasing number of short-term medical missions (STMMs) to its allied nations to provide humanitarian health care; however, overall evaluations to help policy makers strengthen the impact of such missions are lacking. Our primary objective is to identify useful strategies by comparing STMMs to the South Pacific and Central America.

Methods

The data for the evaluation come from two main sources: the official reports of 46 missions to 11 countries in Central America and 25 missions to 8 countries in the South Pacific, and questionnaires completed by health professionals who had participated in the above missions. In Central America, STMMs were staffed by volunteer health professionals from multiple institutions. In the South Pacific, STMMs were staffed by volunteer health professionals from single institutions.

Results

In comparison to STMMs to Central America, STMMs to the South Pacific accomplished more educational training for local health providers, including providing heath-care knowledge and skills (p<0.05), and training in equipment administration (p<0.001) and drug administration (p<0.005). In addition, language constraints were more common among missions to Central America (p<0.001). There was no significant difference in the performance of clinical service between the two regions.

Conclusions

Health-care services provided by personnel from multiple institutions are as efficient as those from single institutions. Proficiency in the native language and provision of education for local health-care workers are essential for conducting a successful STMM. Our data provide implications for integrating evidence into the deployment of STMMs.

Keywords:
Medical missions; Health professional; Language; Education; Efficiency