From the Journals

Study: More pediatricians participating in global health opportunities


A look across nearly 3 decades finds that more pediatricians are participating in global health activities than in the past, and more doctors are interested in future global health experiences.

A white doctor with a stethoscope examines an African baby, while the parents look on. Avatar_023/iStock/Getty Images

Lead author Kevin Chan, MD, MPH, of the University of Toronto, and colleagues analyzed the responses of 668 pediatricians from the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics Periodic Survey and compared the data with responses from 638 pediatricians collected in the 1989 periodic survey about pediatricians’ global health experiences and interests. Findings showed that participation in global health activities rose from 2% in 1989 to 5% in 2017, while interest in future global health experiences grew from 25% in 1989 to 32% in 2017. The study was published in Pediatrics.

Notable increases in global health participation were found in women (1% in 1989 to 5% in 2017) and men (3% in 1989 to 6% in 2017), subspecialists (3% in 1989 to 9% in 2017), and pediatricians who worked in medical school, hospital, or clinic settings (3% in 1989 to 8% in 2017).

In terms of age, pediatricians 50 years or older had a higher rate of a recent global health experience, with the largest increase in global health participation occurring in pediatricians 60 years and older (2% in 1989 to 9% in 2017), the study found.

Similarly, interest in future global health activities increased during the same time period for male and female pediatricians, for generalists and subspecialists, and for those working in medical school, hospital, or clinic settings. Clinical care and teaching settings were the most common preferences for future global health experiences in both 1989 and 2017. Administration and research were the least likely selected preferences in both surveys. Pediatricians affiliated with an academic institution, hospital, or clinic were more likely to have recently engaged in a global health activity and also were more likely express interest in such an opportunity, compared with solo pediatricians or those in small practices.

In an editorial accompanying the article, Suzinne Pak-Gorstein, MD, MPH, PhD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, said that the study highlights the importance of preparation for pediatricians who seek global health opportunities, particularly experiences that are short term.

“Ethical approaches to international work should be thoughtful and intentional, such as deciding to work with organizations that offer short-term experiences only in the context of long-term partnerships, considering the burden on local partners for hosting visitors, and insisting on a commitment to equitable collaborations that are mutually beneficial,” she wrote.

Dr. Pak-Gorstein added that future innovations in global health education can inspire learning experiences for pediatricians that utilize their passion and enthusiasm, while also enabling them to become more globally minded.

“In this way, pediatricians can be empowered to understand the world’s daunting challenges; respect cultural, religious, and socioeconomic differences; and facilitate dialogue and solutions for improving child health worldwide,” she concluded.

The survey was funded by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study authors had no relevant financial disclosures. Dr. Pak-Gorstein said she received no funding for the editorial and had no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Chan K et al. Pediatrics. 2019 Dec 10. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-1655.

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