Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training

CASE 9: Selecting a Research Project
Matthew DeCamp, Joce Rodriguez , Gene Richardson, Michele Barry, Jeremy Sugarman

Short-term training global health experiences abroad may sometimes involve, or include, a research component. In some cases, this results from the need to evaluate the short-term experience’s impact on the community. In others, trainees might develop a new research project or contribute to an ongoing one. In still others, the limited timeframe of short-term programs can make research impracticable (or even unethical).

A range of ethical issues always arises in research, raising questions, such as: What counts as “research”? How can investigators minimize research risks, and maximize benefits?  What would be an equitable distribution of risks and benefits? How should one structure the informed consent process?

Other questions are somewhat unique to the international setting: When standard practices differ between countries, which standard should investigators use? What benefits do researchers owe to the local community following the research?  If cultural norms differ – for example, if individuals defer to community leaders when agreeing to be in a research project – how can investigators accommodate these differences?

This case focus on the question: How can trainees, sending and host institutions, and sponsors of short-term global health training experiences develop an appropriate research question?

Let’s consider the following vignette.

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

Project funding provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)