Mead Over and others have recently been trying to raise the profile of an idea that has been floating around in policy circles for many years, that of trying to create a US Global Health Corps as a way to increase the availability of health human resources in deprived areas, basically a Peace Corps but for medical students. A Q&A with Mead last week provides more details on a type of program that he supports. He sees this proposals as follows:

I started thinking this would be a win-win proposition. We would be helping the recipient country fill gaps in their health care system while simultaneously improving the quality of American health workers. Just like the original Peace Corps in other sectors.

In a recent posting, Mead uses a recently published article in the Washington Post to support this proposal by suggesting that there is a large demand among American students for further volunteer opportunities in global health abroad.

While I agree that it is an open question of whether or not there is sufficient demand among Americans for this type of proposal, I think that the more important question is whether or not there is sufficient demand among recipient countries for this type of proposal. Would a Global Health Corps lead to improved health outcomes in a manner that is sustainable and effective enough to justify this type of expense from US tax-payers and the costs associated with intervening into the health systems of other countries? Medical education in developing countries is actually quite inexpensive relative to training here. If we were instead willing to provide more support to the training, both pre-service and post-service, of health workers would we not be able to produce health workers for our dollars? Clearly this is an empirical question that has not been evaluated, but should be if this policy does get serious consideration.

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2 Responses to “Time for a Global Health Corps?”

  1. Christine Gorman says:

    Re: “if we were . . . willing to provide more support to the training, both pre-service and post-service, of health workers would we not be able to produce health workers for our dollars?”

    Experience shows training alone leads to emigration. You also need well-paying jobs in a safe, productive workplace in those countries.

  2. Karen Grepin says:

    So we figure emigration rates into the calculation, which could be done. It might still be a better use of funds to fund more training in developing countries, even after accounting for emigration.

    But what you raise is another point: would our money not be better spent raising the pay of jobs in countries rather than importing higher-paid, more expensively trained health workers?

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