Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training
CASE 4: Ensuring Sustainable and Appropriate Benefits

Sam has learned a great deal in this case about what makes benefits to the local community through short-term work abroad appropriate.

One way to start thinking about whether benefits are "appropriate" is to ask a simple set of questions, such as:

  • "Who decided these benefits were needed – was the local community involved?"

  • "What should be counted as ‘benefits’ of the short-term experience?"

  • "Where is the target locale for these benefits? Why was it chosen?"

  • "How are the benefits distributed?"

  • "Are the benefits sustainable, where sustainability is understood through locally-oriented solutions?"

Indeed the last of these questions – sustainability – is critical to the mission of most short-term experiences. Helping the local community build the capacity to meet its own needs is one key component of an "appropriate" benefit.

Asking these questions will not resolve all ethical questions related to "benefits" in short-term experiences abroad. However, by asking them frequently, trainees, sending and host institutions, and sponsors will be better prepared to engage in collaborative problem solving.

Additional Resources

The World Health Organization has published guidelines regarding donation of both drugs and medical equipment. The core principles, which probably have more general application, are quoted below:
  1. Maximum benefit to the recipient

  2. Respect for wishes and authority of the recipient

  3. No double standards in quality

  4. Effective communication between donor and recipient

Case Studies for Global Health additionally has a case study related to donated travel packs. This is not the source of the presented case, but does have useful information regarding donated travel packs. Please see: Accessed 31 May 2011.



© Stanford University Center for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Project funding provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)