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How have visiting teams been most useful and what are the main challenges?

Posted by GHO Admin on November 5, 2019 in News

RECAP | Visiting Teams: Global Health Discussion Series | 5 November 2019

How have visiting teams been most useful and what are the main challenges?

By: Claire Tobin, Med(IT), Coordinator, Global Surgery Office

The evening consisted of an enjoyable, lively discussion among participants. Many participants had international or national global health experiences and/or were looking at engaging in global health initiatives in the future. Visiting anesthesiologists from Ethiopia, Dr. Ananya Abate and Dr. Mahalet Tadesse Ibssa, shared their experiences regarding visiting teams. Cardiac surgeon Dr. David Horne, who planned to join the discussion, was booked for an emergency surgery and unable to attend. However, Dr. Horne offers some insights to the discussion below.

The intention of global health work in Canada is to effectively maximize benefits of supports offered to locations or countries in need. Through relationships, experience and research collectively, we acknowledge there are significant needs, and through helping, we reciprocally deepen our individual experiences.

When providing aid to countries in need, significant complexities in co-ordinating funding and managing logistical arrangements emerge. When hosting visiting international teams, co-ordinating and preparing for a team’s arrival is also complex. During the evening discussion, we learned that visiting teams in Ethiopia have been and are imperative to support anesthesiologists in the east African country.

Giving examples, the Ethiopian doctors said they often did not know when a team would arrive or return. A visiting team can attempt to understand as much as possible from past work and then try to continue moving forward. Effective prior and post-visit communication and planning on both sides is ideal.

Discussion raised questions of how progress can be measured, particularly given that health outcomes can be difficult to quantify. Nonetheless, accountability and measured outcomes continue to be important in global health work. Progress requires knowledgeable individuals with a passion and willingness to help bring players together to create supportive relationships, leading to hope, healing, inspiration and reciprocal experiential learning exchanges.

Recommendations discussed for visiting teams from Ethiopia’s perspective:

  • Ideally, arrangements should have clear objectives, outcome measures and accountabilities to bring mutual benefits; perhaps a memorandum of understanding or other semi-official or official signed document
  • Improved administrative capacity to accommodate visiting teams
  • Work on barriers and create solutions as needed

Dr. David Horne: How to manage the logistics and funding to do work in abroad (personal and institutionally):

Logistics: Needs to be investigated and tested, or completely understood, way before the actual work starts abroad. At a minimum one key member or the team lead needs to know all the logistical steps, information, and contact details for ALL members working at site abroad at the same time. This can be a nightmare, so attention to detail as well as a documentation system goes a long way. It’s beneficial to have a single person coordinator that can do leg work and track it all for everyone continuously. My practice and preference is to do monthly conference calls / meetings with all members to go over many aspects including logistics – at least 6 months before planned travel abroad.

Funding: One can’t plan and work on funding, if you don’t know all the logistical costs, as well as costs for needed equipment etc. Know what you need then work on how to get it; both for the individual as well as a team. Then determine who can afford what so that each member and the team as a whole knows what the targets are. It is easier to ask people for money in Canada if there is a tax receipt at after a donation, so collaborating with or starting an organized charity is helpful. Otherwise it’s up to being resourceful with bake sales, t-shirt sales, silent auctions, events etc.

Anesthesiologist Dr. Patty Livingstone, Global Health Director for the Department of Anesthesia, has been pivotal in developing relationships to allow Dalhousie to be an active player to support Ethiopia. Thank you, Dr. Livingstone, for your inspiring, tireless commitment and dedication!

Keep the Conversation Going

Global Health work exists in local and international settings. There are many ways to be involved locally: attending events such as this Global Health Discussion Series assists in understanding issues as well as making connections to build relationships. Please consider attending our next Global Health Discussion Series. If you would like to volunteer to help set up the next discussion series please email