Faith-based Global Health

CCIH Statement on Standards for Short-term Medical Missions

February 22, 2021


Short-Term Medical Missions (STMM) can provide much-needed care to a community and help strengthen capacity of local providers. STMM are often provided in emergency response or in long-term development situations, either as standalone activities of a church or integrated within a non-governmental organization or mission organization’s program. Numerous CCIH members conduct, support, equip, or receive STMM teams.

Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned STMM projects are designed and executed in ways that do not plan for sustained change or, worse, leave communities open to unintended harmful effects of their work. STMM visiting health workers may not understand the local context, coordinate with local authorities, or anticipate the inherent communication and cultural challenges in the services they provide. They are often tempted to practice beyond their normal scope of care. There is growing evidence that such care may be ineffective or even harmful to the people being served and often undermines local health services.

To help STMM effectively address needs, CCIH endorses three sets of standards for those who engage in this work.

1)  The Brocher Declaration.  The Brocher Declaration was created by global practitioners and researchers specifically for global health. The Declaration calls on the international community to maximize the value and minimize the harm of short-term engagements in global health. It calls for:

  • A mutual partnership with input and learning by the mission team and host community
  • The host country and community to define needs and agree on activities
  • Sustainable programs and capacity building for local health practitioners
  • Compliance with applicable laws, ethical standards, and code of conduct
  • Humility, cultural sensitivity, and respect for all involved
  • Accountability for actions by the mission team.

2) Standards of Excellence (SOE).  A code of Best Practice in Short-Term Missions. A separate set of guidelines was developed by SOE, a membership, accrediting and resourcing body for churches, agencies and schools, for Christian short-term missions including STMM. These standards address God-Centeredness, Empowering Partnerships, Mutual Design, Comprehensive Administration, Qualified Leadership, Appropriate Training, and Thorough Follow-Through.

3) Accord Network’s Principles of Excellence in Integral Mission. The Accord Network describes ideals of holistic Christian relief and development and provides a useful framework for organizational self-evaluation.

CCIH believes that these standards are necessary and useful for our members and their partners. We recognize that many factors influence the outcomes of STMM. Intentionally considering these standards should improve quality and minimize potential harm.

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