HOWEVER, the best of intentions and a "feel good" on the part of the doer, often does not result in positive, long-term change for desperate recipients. In fact, short-term U.S. medical outpatient teams that enter another country distributing medications that may not be available to the patient after the prescription runs out, or treating diseases of poverty such as dysentery, scabies and malnutrition without collaborating with locals on solving the root causes of these conditions is at best, only
delaying the return of these preventable conditions and offers no long-term solutions.
Here are "ICARE" steps to prepare short-term medical teams to make a lasting difference.
I - Investigate and observe rules/laws of the host country regarding licensure, scope of
practice and professional conduct of all categories of health professionals, including students, on
the team. Learn and abide by rules as to what supplies may be brought into the
country. Remember, volunteers are guests working at the direction and discretion of their hosts
and must depend on them for guidance. VOLUNTEERS ARE NOT IN CHARGE.
Before and After arrival:
C- Collaborate and connect with local departments of health, and the local missionary or project
host and local volunteers. Learn prevailing health issues and what supplies/medications are
needed. Ask, "What can the team do to be most helpful?" Western medical protocols may not be
culturally relevant in an unfamiliar country.
A - Act in response to locally determined health needs, seeking ways to extend the impact of those
actions through short, episodic visits and by leaving relevant learning materials, videos, tools
R - Build Relationships within the local community and nurture them into long-term partnerships
built on trust and demonstrate Christian Love in Action.
E - Educate and Empower - adopt a model of collaboration and mutual learning. Together, discover
solutions to unresolved health issues and work toward their solutions. Provide relevant
community health training programs in conjunction with local institutions.