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HealthCare Volunteer announces results of world’s first research on global health volunteering trends.

By Neilesh Patel
Los Angeles, CA (5/16/2007)

California ranks as the most popular U.S. state for health-related volunteers. Peru, India, Kenya and Australia rank as top international destinations for health volunteers. Obstetrics and gynecology ranks as the most desired medical specialty for health-related volunteers; Full Report

As globalization ensues at full force, health-related volunteering has followed a similar course. Volunteers of all capacities have embraced globalization and now yearn to volunteer abroad. Healthcare is one sector that has had no shortage of volunteers going abroad. HealthCare Volunteer (www.healthcarevolunteer.org), a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, has published its first annual report on global volunteering trends including top locations, religious preferences and health specialties most likely to volunteer.

The study shows that North American health volunteers had a proportionately higher desire to volunteer locally. In Africa, Kenya was the most desired location for health-related volunteering, whereas Peru was the most popular destination in South America. In Asia, India was the desired destination and in the Oceania region Australia was the top destination. Data was collected from over 30,000 volunteer opportunity search results at www.healthcarevolunteer.org and www.dentalvolunteer.org in 2006.

The volunteering trends were similar between dental and medical volunteers with the majority desiring to volunteer in the United States (with California being the most desirable state). Based off of continent, North America (22%) was the most popular place for dental volunteers followed by Africa (12%), Asia (19%), South America (9%), and Europe (9%).

Nursing, Obstetrics and gynecology and non-health professional volunteers were the top three desired medical functions of health-related volunteering in 2006. General dentistry ranked 5th, public health ranked 8th and family medicine ranked 4th.

The most common religious affiliation preferences for volunteers were Christianity (62%) followed by Catholicism (17%) of people. Of those volunteers with the opportunity to search by religion, 6% did. The remainder of the volunteer searches were split between Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, and Other.

Volunteers in the research study were from over 119 countries with the greatest number of volunteers being physically located in United States (76%), Canada (7%), United Kingdom (5%), Australia (1%), Kenya (1%) and India (1%). The other 113 countries totaled less than 1% per country.

The discrepancy between the demand for certain volunteer locations and the actual healthcare worker shortage in that country was severely mismatched. For instance, when comparing the density per 1000 people of physicians in the most popular country and least popular country, it was ironic to find countries with greater healthcare access limitations had less volunteers searching to go there. For instance, in South America, the most popular country, Brazil, has a 1.15:1000 physician to population ratio while the least popular country Suriname had a 0.45:1000 ratio.4

As health-volunteering ensues, we must ensure that grant makers, private foundations and other funding sources be aware of countries that have received a disproportionately higher amount of funding, thereby leaving other countries without appropriate funding for health related altruism. Nevertheless, these volunteering trends show that certain countries have historically been targeted by healthcare aid organizations, and these countries attract a proportionately higher amount of volunteer interest. In order to foster new aid organizations to areas that have been neglected or perhaps previously unknown by healthcare volunteers, we must educate volunteers about the overwhelming need in new areas, and subsequently work with local NGO and government organizations in these countries to foster a wider spread of aid instead of a mere concentration of aid in select countries. If one of the goals of healthcare volunteering is to create a bit of equality in healthcare access among needy people, then we must ensure that our altruistic efforts are not inadvertently enhancing the inequality.

For Full Report: http://www.healthcarevolunteer.com/reports/trends_2006.pdf

HealthCare Volunteer, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, was started in January 1, 2006 by an American dental and medical student, who realized the need for a free non-profit portal that connects all volunteers interested in health care to volunteering opportunities. Due to resource constraints, several national health care organizations rightfully chose not to undertake such a drastic project, and so the opportunity to unite health care volunteers globally remained. It was clear that an independent, 3rd party, non-partisan, non-governmental organization (NGO) unaffiliated with any country or entity needed to be formed to promote health care volunteering in a rapidly globalizing world.

By Neilesh Patel