05 Jul 2011
Wang K, Gimbel S, Malik E, Hassen S, Hagopian A. (2011). The Experience of Chinese Physicians in the National Health Diplomacy Programme Deployed to Sudan. Glob Public Health. 7(2), 196-211. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2011.594450
Chinese Medical Teams have been working in developing countries since 1963 as a health diplomacy strategy. In 2010, 1252 Chinese medical personnel were assigned to 48 countries. We conducted a review of Chinese literature and governmental websites to describe the history and current distribution of Chinese Medical Teams around the world. In addition, we interviewed members of a 36-member Chinese Medical Team deployed to Sudan (primarily about their motivations to join the programme and the challenges and benefits they face), along with their Sudanese hosts. The most significant challenge health workers described was homesickness. Most members said they were able to maintain motivation through their curiosity and the doctor-friendly environment. All but two rated their own working performance as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, while their Sudanese colleagues consistently rated them even higher. Participants reported conflicting beliefs regarding the perceived responsibilities of the team and challenges around communication. Three pillars support the Chinese Medical Team programme in Sudan: bilateral government commitment, the professionalism of the Medical Teams, and the welcoming medical environment. Future success of this or similar Chinese programmes depend on the willingness of both governments to participate, the ongoing commitment of younger Chinese doctors, and the hospitality of physicians in the host country. There are also some threats to the programme, including a potentially diminishing need for Chinese doctors to support increasingly well-trained host country physicians.