The flag of Ghana

Lehigh Accelerator Grants Advance Key Research Opportunities

Lehigh’s Accelerator Grants support multi-investigator research programs in specific and significant areas of opportunity, allowing flexibility in the use of funds for rapid program growth. One such project relies on researchers in Ghana, Uganda and Guatemala to lead in the examination of short-term medical missions from the host countries’ perspectives.

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

As many as a million Americans travel to developing countries each year to participate in short-term medical missions (STMMs). Scholars and practitioners have voiced concerns about the value and implementation of these trips, but the conversation has been missing key voices: those of the host communities.

A Lehigh Accelerator Grant-funded project, “Enhancing the Value of Short-term Volunteer Missions in Health From Host Country Perspectives,” is the first to rely on in-country researchers to lead in the investigation of the advantages and disadvantages of STMMs from the host countries’ perspectives. The study springs directly from the prior research on effectiveness of STMMs by Judith Lasker, professor emerita of sociology and health, medicine and society, which resulted in the book, Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering.

Using a community-based participatory research approach to allow for country-appropriate methodology and questions, researchers in three countries—Ghana, Uganda and Guatemala— are conducting in-depth interviews with key in-country stakeholders. They are also analyzing their countries’ policies and practices with regard to visiting health teams and will be working with country officials to see how findings might influence policies.

Lehigh has been named a collaborating institution for a May 2020 international symposium, "The Ethics and Impact of Short-term Programs in Global Health: Translating Research into Action," in Geneva, Switzerland. The symposium will be hosted by the Brocher Foundation and will bring the researchers from Ghana, Uganda and Guatemala together with officials from international organizations to look at how the research findings can be translated into effective policy at national and international levels for appropriate use of resources for STMMs.

[The funding has enabled us to build] a network of researchers and to raise the issue of medical missions to a broader research consciousness.

Sirry Alang, Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor Of Sociology And Health, Medicine And Society

This story originally appeared as "Advancing Key Research Opportunities" in the 2019 Lehigh Research Review.

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

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