Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Research Pre-Trip Medical Care and Malaria Medication for Mission Team Members

at 7:07 PM
The US Center for Disease Control has been the industry standard for years in determining what type of medical care is needed for travel. They provide detailed information while not being so technical as to evade the grasp of those not medically trained.

Keep your recommendations to the team conservative. Imagine yourself on the witness stand in a trial... "Yes, I did recommend that Mr. Smith who is now deathly ill and suing me... I did recommend that he bypass that immunization." You should reasonably discuss various vaccinations in light of probable need, expense and possible side effects. But, it is probably best to let most of those discussions happen with a team member's doctor. They have malpractice insurance and know a whole lot more about it than you do.

Keep in mind that vaccinations and medication are only two potential means of risk mitigation. Plan to educate your team members on diseases they may potentially contract and how to avoid doing so when possible. Educate people in malaria prone areas about evening mosquito bites and taking their medication upon return to the U.S. Make sure to discuss water-born disease and how to avoid washed fresh vegetables. Having someone with medical knowledge discuss this with your team can be very helpful. Otherwise, take a few hours to educate yourself on the risks endemic to the destination of your team.

The World Health Organization provides helpful information as well, including an annual publication entitled International Travel and Health. This resource is freely downloadable. WHO does not provide country-specific vaccination recommendations, however it does have a great deal of information regarding the spread of disease. This information can help you be more specific with your team. For instance, malaria is present in Bolivia but not in La Paz.
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You can access these web sites at the following links:

U.S. Center for Disease Control
World Health Organization

If you want your team to become educated on medical matters, consolidate the information for them in hard copy and put it in their hands. Disease is such an unpleasant topic to begin with and the information available even on these two web sites can be overwhelming. Chances are that your team will not truly educate themselves unless you give them a clear path to walk down. Diversify your educational strategy as well. In addition to info sheets and recommendations, plan some simulations on disease prevention, have a medical professional speak to the group, or give an incentive for the first person to complete their vaccination process.

David Bosworth is the Director of STM Toolbox, an organization devoted to equipping, connecting and serving coordinators of short term mission by reviewing published resources and collecting/distributing unpublished resources in short term mission. STM Toolbox will also serve as the administrative support for your short term mission planning process so that you are free to minister as you are called. More information and resources can be accessed at
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