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ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 133-139

Using Maslow's hierarchy to highlight power imbalances between visiting health professional student volunteers and the host community: An applied qualitative study


1 Department of Evaluation and Research, The 53rd Week Ltd., Brooklyn, NY, USA
2 Student Success Centre, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8, Canada
3 Department of Evaluation and Research, The 53rd Week Ltd., Brooklyn, NY, USA; Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. NW Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4, Canada
4 Department of Evaluation and Research, The 53rd Week Ltd., Brooklyn, NY, USA; Department of Epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Lawrence C Loh
c/o Peel Public Health, 7120 Hurontario Street, 7th Floor, Mississauga, ON, L5M 2C2, Canada

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_175_16

Background: Health professional students from high-income countries increasingly participate in short-term experiences in global health (STEGH) conducted abroad. One common criticism of STEGH is the inherent power differential that exists between visiting learners and the local community. To highlight this power differential, this paper explores perceived benefits as described by volunteer and community respondents and applies Maslow's hierarchy of needs to commonly identified themes in each respondent group. Methods: A semistructured survey was used to collect qualitative responses from both volunteers and community members located in a Dominican Republic community, that is, a hotspot for traditionally conducted STEGH. Thematic analysis identified themes of perceived benefits from both respondent groups; each group's common themes were then classified and compared within Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Results: Each respondent group identified resource provision as a perceived benefit of STEGH, but volunteer respondents primarily focused on the provision of highly-skilled, complex resources while community respondents focused on basic necessities (food, water, etc.) Volunteer respondents were also the only group to also mention spiritual/religious/life experiences, personal skills development, and relationships as perceived benefits. Applying Maslow's hierarchy thus demonstrates a difference in needs: community respondents focused on benefits that address deficiency needs at the bottom of the hierarchy while volunteers focused on benefits addressing self-transcendence/actualization needs at the top of the hierarchy. Conclusions: The perceived difference in needs met by STEGH between volunteers and the host community within Maslow's hierarchy may drive an inherent power differential. Refocusing STEGH on the relationship level of the hierarchy (i.e., focusing on partnerships) might help mitigate this imbalance and empower host communities.


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