Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Needs Assessment of Medical Care for Rural Jamaicans That Require Assistance from Short-Term Medical Missions

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Needs Assessment of Medical Care for Rural Jamaicans That Require Assistance from Short-Term Medical Missions

Article excerpt

Introduction

Short Term Medical Missions (STMMs) are defined as "travel by a group of physicians to a foreign country for the purpose of making a special study or of undertaking a special study of a short-tenn duration" (1). This broad definition encompasses a wide range of services, ranging from surgical missions providing craniofacial reconstruction or cataract extraction (2,3) to medical and/or pediatric missions providing care for acute illness and chronic disease (4). STMMs have been hugely successful in delivering greatly needed medical care to much of the developing world. Annually, there are approximately 6000 STMMs sent out from the United States alone, totaling an annual expenditure of around $250 million (5). They appeal to physicians and other medical professionals due to their unique combination of philanthropy and direct approach to patient care (6). Missions differ widely in size (2 to 90 health care providers per mission) (7), budget (from a few hundred dollars to $39 million in annual expenses) (8) , duration (from 2 days to several months in length) (9) , and logistical detail.

Although STMMs have good intentions, there are sometimes issues that arise with the practical implementation of STMMs; these may include thepaucity of follow-up data, inadequate relations with the local health care system, and lack of sustainability (5). In order for these problems to be addressed more successfully, a collection of relevant literature concerning the medical needs of the typical population cared for by STMMs in the country of focus is needed. Without proper research beforehand, issues of efficacy, quality control, and impact assessment may be easily overlooked (5).

Jamaica is a nation of approximately 2.6 million people of which a sizeable minority (14.8%) lives in poverty (10).

The unemployment rate in Jamaica (12.9%) is relatively high, and the country has a considerable debt-to-GDP ratio of 120% (10). Jamaica has a public and free health care system. Even though each year the Government of Jamaica invests millions of dollars into health care, many rural Jamaicans may feel that they either don't have the funds or the time to travel to regional health centers, which are often a number of kilometers away. Thus, there is a great need for STMMs to help with overcoming the vast medical needs of the rural population. In order for STMMs to be efficient and focused in their execution, they must have a sound understanding of the medical needs of the rural population being cared for.

Unfortunately, to date, there has been a lack of published information in this field. Prior to the creation of this study, a literature search using PubMed (1947 to 2010) and PubMed Central (1947 to 2010) was conducted. The search terms "Jamaica", "short term medical mission", and "needs assessment" were used to elicit relevant literature. Studies were deemed relevant if they tried to comprehensively outline the medical needs of the rural population in Jamaica. No relevant studies were found. Therefore, to date, this is the first study that aims to offer a collection of statistics concerning the medical needs of a sample of rural Jamaicans being cared for by a STMM.

Methods

We participated in a STMM with Crystal Mission International (CMI) to Jamaica from July 1st-July 8th, 2011. CMI is a privately owned charitable organization based in Toronto, Canada that is funded exclusively by private donations. Our STMM team consisted of a variety of physicians, nurses, medical students, and volunteers.

The medications that were brought to Jamaica included the Physician Travel Pack as outlined by Health Partners International of Canada, as well as a charitable pharmaceutical donation from Teva Canada. The STMM was fully approved by the Jamaican Ministry of Health.

To the rural population, our mission was advertised towards a pediatric population; however, with the help of local health authorities, our scope of work was extended to adults as well. …

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