Background: Humanitarian missions serve populations needing care and usually provide short term interventions. Traditionally, care provided through humanitarian agencies like VOSH International has been episodic, consisting of a short-term mission placing a team in country for several days. There have been discussions that episodic care is a short term measure which impedes the systematic development of a long term solution to providing the necessary health care. The move toward sustained care is a step in the direction of improving the public health in developing countries.
Method: A survey instrument was mailed to the 26 VOSH chapters in the United States and Canada. Results were tabulated and analyzed.
Results: Sixteen completed surveys were returned for a response rate of 62%. In a one-year period, missions were carried out in 13 countries. There is a strong tendency toward continuity of care with 81% of respondents returning to locations of previous missions and 69% targeting the same population base. There is also a trend toward providing sustained care (such as establishment of a fixed clinical facility) with half responding affirmatively. Nineteen percent of chapters have been involved in the development or enhancement of departments, schools or colleges of optometry in the developing world.
Conclusion: It is exhibited in this study that most teams return to the same areas for future missions and collaborate with other partners with different expertise to create an ongoing presence. This model provides acute care for those needing immediate attention but also enhances the local infrastructure to develop a plan for long term care of this population. This allows for the opportunity to address immediate concerns, build rapport with the community, and use that goodwill and expertise to create long term change. While episodic humanitarian missions have made a profound impact, transitioning from episodic to sustained care improves overall quality of care, expanded services and long-term impact.
McAlister WH, Weaver JL, Wingert TA, Kramlich K. Transitioning from Episodic to Sustained Care in Humanitarian Service. Optometric Clinical Practice. 2020; 2(1). doi: 10.37685/uiwlibraries.2575-77184.108.40.2069. https://doi.org/10.37685/uiwlibraries.2575-77220.127.116.119
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