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J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 February; 97(2): 270–275.
PMCID: PMC2568767

Private volunteer medical organizations: how effective are they?


Religious and other secular organizations have been involved with medical missionary work in sub-Saharan Africa for centuries, especially in remote provinces and villages. In times past, most of these countries were under the control of foreign powers. Private volunteer organizations operated within a structured environment, which, perhaps, facilitated their mission and their ability to review and evaluate their effectiveness because of the tight control the colonial powers maintained over every facet of native life. However, the transition from colonialism to independence has resulted in a different environment in which healthcare is fragmented and a low priority in most countries because of financial constraints. The lack of standardization, vintage laboratory equipment, a manual medical record system, lack of a subsidized transportation system, infrequent postal service and the absence of phone systems in the remote provinces and villages make treatment and tracking of patients, monitoring therapy and measuring outcomes/results difficult. Therefore, judging the effectiveness of an initiative in remote district hospitals and village clinics can be difficult. This manuscript addresses some of these issues and provides solutions to some that have been effective for one organization.

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