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Impact and Sustainability of Foreign Medical Aid: A Qualitative Study with Honduran Healthcare Providers.

Faktor KL, Payán DD, Ramirez AJ, May FP. Impact and Sustainability of Foreign Medical Aid: A Qualitative Study with Honduran Healthcare Providers. Annals of global health. 2023 Mar 3; 89(1):17.

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BACKGROUND: There is growing concern about the sustainability and long-term impact of short-term medical missions (STMMs)-an increasingly common form of foreign medical aid-given that brief engagements do little to address the underlying poverty and fragmented healthcare system that plagues many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In the absence of formal evaluations, unintended but serious consequences for patients and local communities may arise, including a lack of continuity of patient care, poor alignment with community needs, and cultural and language barriers. OBJECTIVE: We conducted semi-structured interviews with Honduran healthcare providers (n = 88) in 2015 to explore local providers'' perceptions of the impact and sustainability of foreign medical aid on patient needs, community health, and the country''s healthcare system. METHODS: Respondents represented a random sample of Honduran healthcare providers (physicians, dentists, nurses) who worked for either a government-run rural clinic or non-governmental organization (NGO) in Honduras. FINDINGS: Honduran healthcare providers largely framed foreign medical teams as being assets that help to advance community health through the provision of medical personnel and supplies. Nonetheless, most respondents identified strategies to improve implementation of STMMs and reduce negative impacts. Many respondents emphasized a need for culturally- and linguistically-tailored medical care and health education interventions. Participants also recommended strengthening local partnerships to mitigate the risk of dependence, including on-going training and support of community health workers to promote sustainable change. CONCLUSIONS: Guidelines informed by local Honduran expertise are needed to increase accountability for more robust training of foreign physicians in the provision of context-appropriate care. These findings provide valuable local perspectives from Honduran healthcare providers to improve the development and implementation of STMMs, informing strategies that can complement and strengthen healthcare systems in LMICs.

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