JOURNAL ARTICLE

Primary care provision by volunteer medical brigades in Honduras: a health record review of more than 2,500 patients over three years

Alexandra L C Martiniuk, Nikesh Adunuri, Joel Negin, Patti Tracey, Claudio Fontecha, Paul Caldwell
International Journal of Health Services: Planning, Administration, Evaluation 2012, 42 (4): 739-53
23367802
The weak health system in Honduras contributes to poor health indicators. To improve population health, a number of volunteer medical brigades from developed countries provide health services in Honduras. To date, there is little information on the brigades' activities and impact. The primary objective of this article is to increase understanding of the type of health care provided by voluntary medical brigades by evaluating and presenting data on patients' presenting symptoms, diagnoses, and care outcomes. The article focuses on an ongoing medical brigade organized by Canadian health professionals in conjunction with Honduras' largest national non-governmental organization. This is a descriptive study of data that are routinely collected by volunteer Canadian health care professionals. Data on all patients presenting to temporary primary health care facilities across Honduras between 2006 and 2009 were analyzed. The data were used to analyze patient demographics, presenting symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments. We found that the brigades provide additional human resources to the relatively weak Honduran health care system. However, while brigades may increase solidarity between Hondurans and Canadians, concerns persist regarding cost-effectiveness and continuity of care for conditions treated by short-term brigade volunteers. Greater scrutiny is needed to increase brigades' effectiveness and ensure they are supportive of domestic health systems.

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