Intended for healthcare professionals


Training programmes in global health

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 03 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6860
  1. Sten H Vermund, professor,
  2. Carolyn M Audet, research assistant, professor,
  3. Marie H Martin, senior programme manager,
  4. Douglas H Heimburger, professor
  1. 1Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, 37203, USA
  1. sten.vermund{at}

New guidelines outline best practice and the ethics of working abroad

On 30 November, the Working Group on Ethics Guidelines for Global Health Training (WEIGHT) published guidance for institutions, trainees, and sponsors of field-based global health training on ethics and best practices in this setting.1 The working group included a wide swath of trainees in their discussion, from students to postgraduates, who might go abroad for days, weeks, or up to one year of training before returning home. The benefits for trainees include inspiration, education, and career guidance; for institutions, they include building overseas partnerships and recruitment of trainees (box).1 The risks include burdens on the host institutions, failure to compensate host institutions for costs incurred on behalf of trainees (especially relevant for low resource institutions), the use of underqualified trainees, and competition between trainees for mentorship or co-author opportunities (box).1 Although short term exchanges of trainees may occur between institutions, higher resourced universities or hospitals invariably send more short term trainees abroad than lower resourced institutions[f1].


Benefits and risks to trainees and institutions of global training programmes1

  • Inspiration for trainees:

    • Care for the poor, ethnic minorities, and the underserved

    • Embrace primary care medicine

    • Improve diagnostic and interpersonal skills

    • Volunteer in humanitarian work

    • Consider global health careers

    • Long term commitments to tackling the challenges that they confronted in their training

    • Appreciate interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches

    • Engage in a different cultural milieu

  • Education for trainees in the following areas:

    • Specific topics, such as tropical and neglected diseases; HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria; chronic diseases; diseases of poverty; maternal and child health

    • Socioeconomic issues in health

    • Foreign languages

    • Cultural competency

    • Diagnosis, treatment, and clinical monitoring

  • Cost effectiveness of various medical or public health strategies:

    • Recruit trainees interested …

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