Research As Mission: Experiences and Expectations of Missions Agency Leadership Regarding the Ministry Role of Clinical and Public Health Research
Introduction: Research as a focus of healthcare missions is an important component of the evolving role of healthcare missionaries and sending organizations in LMICs. There is a lack of data and understanding on what appetite exists to expand and invest in such research initiatives.
Methods: This study surveyed leaders of North American mission sending agencies engaged in healthcare, seeking to ascertain their current and anticipated future involvement in research, education, and healthcare delivery.
Results: Forty-seven leaders responded (of 211 contacted) to our survey of whom 37 completed all survey questions. Eighty-two percent of respondents agreed that they had a responsibility as an organization to study how to improve clinical care and public health. Sixty-four percent of respondents anticipated reduced healthcare delivery in the next 10 years. During that same 10-year, time frame, 61% anticipate an increase in health research mentoring, and 79% expect an increased role of student education. However, this emerging shift towards research and education is not yet reflected with a similar degree of perceived enthusiasm among missionaries in doing research or donors in supporting it.
Discussion: Across the spectrum of middle- and upper-level leadership in a variety of missions sending organizations, there is recognition of an important and increasing role for healthcare research activities in ministry. About half of the agencies represented in our sample are already involved in research and will need to share best practices with others as healthcare missionaries devote more time and attention to research mentorship. Done well, this can provide additional avenues for disciple-making in both home and host cultures as well as improve the care for populations in those remote and rural areas often most served by healthcare missionaries.
Conclusion: Research as mission has, heretofore, been a neglected methodology, but institutional leaders in healthcare missions anticipate an increasingly important ministry role for it.
Olivier J, Tsimpo C, Gemignani R, Shojo M, Coulombe H, Dimmock F, et al. Understanding the roles of faith-based health-care providers in Africa: review of the evidence with a focus on magnitude, reach, cost, and satisfaction. Lancet. 2015 Oct 31;386(10005):1765-75. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60251-3
The World Health Organization. Alma Ata Declaration. [cited 2022 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.who.int/teams/social-determinants-of-health/declaration-of-alma-ata
Meara JG, Leather AJ, Hagander L, Alkire BC, Alonso N, Ameh EA, et al. Global surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development. Lancet. 2015 Aug 8;386(9993):569-624. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60160-X
Wood P. The evolution of church/mission hospitals in Africa. Evang Missions Quart Online. 2011 July 1; 47(3):336-40.
The Lancet Global Health. Closing the door on parachutes and parasites. Lancet Glob Health. 2018 Jun;6(6):e593. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30239-0
Sund GC. Research at the district hospital in low-income countries. Anesth Analg. 2020 May;130(5):e156-e157. https://doi.org/10.1213/ANE.0000000000004716
Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons. Available from: https://paacs.net
Sund G, Huang AH, Mascha EJ, Miburo C, Machemedze S, Razafimanantsoa M, et al. Delays to essential surgery at four faith based hospitals in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. ANZ J Surg. 2022 Jan;92(1-2):228-34. https://doi.org/10.1111/ans.17433
Long C, Titus Ngwa TE, Popat RA, Lawong EK, Brown JA, Wren SM. Factors associated with delays to surgical presentation in North-West Cameroon. Surgery. 2015 Sep;158(3):756-63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surg.2015.04.016
Van Essen C, Steffes B, Thelander K, Akinyi B, Li HF, Tarpley M. Increasing and retaining African surgeons working in rural hospitals: an analysis of PAACS surgeons with twenty-year program follow-up. World J Surg. 2019:43;75–86. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00268-018-4781-9
Strand MA, Chen A, Mellinger J, Slusher T, Pelletier A. Report of the PRISM Survey: patterns and responses in intercultural service in medicine. Medical Missions Survey Working Group of the Continuing Medical and Dental Education Commission of the Christian Medical and Dental Association. 2011. 8.
Strand MA, Wood A. That healthcare missionaries might flourish: global healthcare workers needs assessment report. MedSend. 2015. Fargo, ND, USA.
Biccard BM. African Peri-operative Research Group (APORG) working group. Priorities for peri-operative research in Africa. Anaesthesia. 2020 Jan;75(1):e28-e33. https://doi.org/10.1111/anae.14934
Fort AL. The quantitative and qualitative contributions of faith-based organizations to healthcare: the Kenya case. Christ J Global Health. 2017 Nov;4(3):60-71. https://doi.org/10.15566/cjgh.v4i3.191
Rajbhandari R, McMahon DE, Rhatigan JJ, Farmer PE. The neglected hospital - the district hospital's central role in global health care delivery. N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 30;382(5):397-400. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp1911298
Noor AM (2022) Country ownership in global health. PLOS Glob Public Health 2(2): e0000113. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0000113
Hirner S, Saunders C, Stassen W. The ethical considerations for emergency care research in low- and middle-income countries: a scoping review of the published literature. Af J Emerg Med. 2022;12(1):71-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.afjem.2021.12.001
Strand M, Mellinger J, Slusher T, Chen A, Pelletier A. Re-imaging medical missions: results of the PRISM Survey. Evang Missions Q;49(4): 430-9. Available from: https://missionexus.org/re-imaging-medical-missions-results-of-the-prism-survey/
Christian Journal for Global Health applies the Creative Commons Attribution License to all articles that we publish. Under this license, authors retain ownership of copyright for their articles or they can transfer copyright to their institution, but authors allow anyone without permission to copy, distribute, transmit, and/or adapt articles, even for commercial purposes so long as the original authors and Christian Journal for Global Health are appropriately cited.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.