Four Major Changes that will Require A 21st Century Approach to Medical Missions

Part 3 of 3: Changing needs in international medical care over the next 10 years

In part two of the Next 10 Years of Medical Ministry series originally presented at this year’s M3 conference, we discussed the challenge of getting medical knowledge and equipment to the places most needed and how you can help. Some key areas where you can help included: nursing leadership, patient safety, and infection prevention and control. Now we are going to address changes affecting medical missions in the next decade.

The future of medicine as a platform to share the Gospel won’t just be defined by the innovations and emerging new realities of the 21st century such as disease changes, technology, education levels and economic development. It will also be shaped by how Christians and the Church respond to these new opportunities, anticipating the challenges and consequences. To ensure a sustainable approach, we need to shift our thinking and adopt long-term medical mission strategies recognizing the following four major economic and medical changes.

  1. Clinical Shifts – Moving from Communicable Diseases to Chronic Diseases.
    Let’s start first with the good news. The west’s investment in medical research and treatment has resulted in breakthroughs that will change the entire world. Right now, $7 billion annually in U.S. global health funding is focused on four critically important communicable diseases – HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB and Hepatitis. $7 billion annually!The amazing news is that in the next 10 years, it is very realistic that these driving medical issues may no longer be the major health concern they are today. Here are just the highlights:
    • The CDC has publicly set a goal to cure HIV/AIDS in the next 10 years
    • The first Malaria vaccinations are being released – initially only 40% effective but it is just a matter of time before it increases
    • TB Alliance just had a new therapy for drug resistant TB approved by the FDA and more advances are in the pipeline
    • And the new Hepatitis C drug is already having a great affect on public health

These are some of the greatest accomplishments of this generation. We set our
priorities and we are achieving our goals.

Why this is important for medical missions to recognize is that most of the governmental medical systems in places such as Africa have been funded primarily to treat these communicable diseases. What has been established are large public health networks designed to cover as broad of an area and reach as many people as possible.

The major implication for medical missions is that over the next 10 years as the major communicable diseases are addressed, we will encounter in their place a tsunami of chronic disease needs. This will drive a 180-degree pivot from primary care to surgery and specialist physician care for chronic diseases.

  1. Technological advances – for diagnosis, treatment, communications
    The second new reality is familiar to all of us: accelerated changes in technology. Not only does this include diagnostics and treatment modalities but also everyday communication and electronic systems. What this means to us is that sophisticated diagnostic equipment is now a medical necessity for the 21st century. And access to an electronic medical record in rural places such as Africa will not be an unfathomable dream but a medical treatment necessity.
  2. Higher Levels of Education
    Another important change is that in every country where MBF works, virtually every staff member is looking for opportunities to extend their education. Improving educational systems will now provide those opportunities, and produce well-trained medical and administrative professionals to staff hospitals and clinics.
  3. Economic Development
    Finally, for the first time, the economies in almost every lower-resourced country are improving so much that we have a cadre of middle class patients who can afford to pay their bills. This forges a path for self-sustaining medical ventures.

Each of these new realities – disease changes, technology, education levels and economic development will hasten a full reorientation from the 20th century focus on basic, free, communicable disease treatment for the poor.

The 21st Century model now requires different types of medicine, facilities and organizations to meet these even greater chronic needs.

Andy Mayo

CEO

MBF/Center for Global Nursing Development

P.S. To look at the full presentation, CLICK HERE to get to our resources section where you can view the presentation.