Short-term medical service trips: a systematic review of the evidence

Am J Public Health. 2014 Jul;104(7):e38-48. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301983. Epub 2014 May 15.


Short-term medical service trips (MSTs) aim to address unmet health care needs of low- and middle-income countries. The lack of critically reviewed empirical evidence of activities and outcomes is a concern. Developing evidence-based recommendations for health care delivery requires systematic research review. I focused on MST publications with empirical results. Searches in May 2013 identified 67 studies published since 1993, only 6% of the published articles on the topic in the past 20 years. Nearly 80% reported on surgical trips. Although the MST field is growing, its medical literature lags behind, with nearly all of the scholarly publications lacking significant data collection. By incorporating data collection into service trips, groups can validate practices and provide information about areas needing improvement.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Medical Missions / economics
  • Medical Missions / organization & administration*
  • Medical Missions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Care Team
  • Religion
  • Students
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Volunteers