Expanding the scope of medical mission volunteer groups to include a research component

Globalization and Health
[Accessed 22 February 2014]

Expanding the scope of medical mission volunteer groups to include a research component
John Rovers, Michael Andreski, John Gitua, Abdoulaye Bagayoko and Jill DeVore
Author Affiliations
Globalization and Health 2014, 10:7  doi:10.1186/1744-8603-10-7
Published: 20 February 2014

Abstract (provisional)
Serving on volunteer groups undertaking medical mission trips is a common activity for health care professionals and students. Although volunteers hope such work will assist underserved populations, medical mission groups have been criticized for not providing sustainable health services that focus on underlying health problems. As members of a volunteer medical mission group, we performed a bed net indicator study in rural Mali. We undertook this project to demonstrate that volunteers are capable of undertaking small-scale research, the results of which offer locally relevant results useful for disease prevention programs. The results of such projects are potentially sustainable beyond the duration of a mission trip.

Volunteers with Medicine for Mali interviewed 108 households in Nana Kenieba, Mali during a routine two-week medical mission trip. Interviewees were asked structured questions about family demographics, use of insecticide treated bed nets the previous evening, as well as about benefits of net use and knowledge of malaria. Survey results were analyzed using logistic regression.

We found that 43.7% of households had any family member sleep under a bed net the previous evening. Eighty seven percent of households owned at least one ITN and the average household owned 1.95 nets. The regression model showed that paying for a net was significantly correlated with its use, while low perceived mosquito density, obtaining the net from the public sector and more than four years of education in the male head of the household were negatively correlated with net use. These results differ from national Malian data and peer-reviewed studies of bed net use.

We completed a bed net study that provided results that were specific to our service area. Since these results were dissimilar to peer-reviewed literature and Malian national level data on bed net use, the results will be useful to develop locally specific teaching materials on malaria prevention. This preventive focus is potentially more sustainable than clinical services for malaria treatment. Although we were not able to demonstrate that our work is sustainable, our study shows that volunteer groups are capable of undertaking research that is relevant to their service area.