While the Guatemalan government health system provides largely adequate coverage for emergency and tertiary care surgical needs, patients requiring non-emergency and specialist surgeries are often left under-served. This gap in service provision is in part filled by visiting surgical teams, largely volunteers from North America. Visiting surgical teams are typically hosted by local Guatemalan NGOs, who each use their own system of connecting patients with surgeons. Short-term medical missions are an important source of health care in Guatemala and globally, but they have been criticized for failing to build in-country capacity and for providing care that would not meet the standard of care in their countries of origin. The 2017 project will build on the initial work on this topic of NAPA-OT Field School Students in 2011, An Investigation of the Surgical Referral Process Utilized by Non-Governmental Organizations in Guatemala, in 2013, Patient Experiences of Medical Missions, and 2014, Sustainable Technology for Surgical Referrals: Pilot Implementation of an Electronic Medical Referral System for Short-term Surgical Missions. The 2017 Short-term Medical Missions (STMMs) group will investigate the interactions of health-focused NGOs and government health agencies in the Antigua area and at the national policy level, particularly focusing on surgical care and the perspectives of Guatemalan providers.
Employing qualitative research methods, students will interview Guatemalan health care providers, members of the Guatemalan Medical College, and NGO stakeholders. Based on this first-hand research, students will highlight specific issues with STMMs from the perspective of Guatemalan providers and pinpoint areas for improved NGO collaboration. Both the research findings and suggestions for improving the referral process will be shared with participating agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders.
Key competencies gained will include: in-depth knowledge of the international NGO structure; qualitative research techniques; basics of public health intervention mapping and evaluation; development of an occupational critique, and policy-brief and executive report writing.