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e-Panel Survey Summary

International Health


The CMA surveyed e-Panel members to learn more about their views on international health and the CMA’s involvement in international health activities. The results provide a picture of panelists’ awareness of current CMA international health initiatives, where CMA should allocate its resources for international health, and how panelists themselves may become involved in this area. A summary of the results of the e-Panel survey is presented below.

Survey – June 2015

The survey was sent to 2,100 e-Panel members; 411 responded, for a response rate of 20%.


Survey results indicate that respondents’ awareness of current CMA international health activities is low, but most (76%) feel that CMA’s involvement in international health is either somewhat or very important. Respondents recommend a variety of areas where CMA could direct its international health efforts, as well as approaches to assist members in becoming involved themselves.

Awareness of CMA International Health Activities

Most respondents were not very aware (47%) or not aware at all (31%) of CMA’s current international health activities. The 10% of respondents that was somewhat aware or very aware of these activities provided examples such as:

  • The Canadian Medical Foundation: Financial aid for health crises and natural disasters, support of international health exchanges, provision of bursaries
  • Presence at conferences such as the CMA Humanitarian Medicine Conference
  • Educational activities through medical schools, residency programs, and Continuing Medical Education
  • International links with other medical bodies such as the American Medical Association and British Medical Association
  • Involvement with international health organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, the World Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, and the Canadian Rotary Collaboration for International Development
  • Issue-specific work on topics such as Ebola, vaccinations, public health, Women’s health, and climate change

Awareness of International Health Organizations

Overall, respondents were very aware of major international health organizations, including the World Health Organization (97%), Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (97%), the Red Cross (98%), and Amnesty International (95%). The exception was the World Medical Association, with only 29% of respondents being aware.

CMA’s Involvement in International Health

76% of respondents felt that the CMA’s work related to international health was either somewhat important or very important. They were also asked where CMA should focus its resources and activities related to international health. Here are the results:

  • Multilateral representative organizations like the World Medical Association (52%)
  • Direct engagement with national medical associations who lack the same resources as the CMA (55%)
  • Humanitarian medicine activities such as natural disaster response, medical care in conflict affected areas, etc. (65%)
  • Assisting CMA members who wish to work abroad (73%)
  • Other (11%)

Respondents provided a number of other suggestions for how they believe CMA should be involved in international health. Key themes included:

  • Developing an international health strategy by identifying key problems to address and by conducting case studies on what other national medical associations have done
  • Taking a big picture approach to international health by providing education about key issues, learning lessons from other health care systems, and assisting in relevant Canadian policy development
  • Importance of “thinking globally and acting locally”, advocating for improvements in areas such as aboriginal health, advocacy for refugee and immigrant health, social determinants, and climate change
  • Maintaining current partnerships with medical bodies and international health organizations and expanding to include smaller organizations with global representation

Involvement of Respondents in International Health

Respondents’ interest in becoming involved in international health initiatives varied, with 57% being somewhat or very interested, and 26% being not very interested or not interested at all. When asked how the CMA can assist members in becoming involved in international health initiatives, the following suggestions emerged:

  • Raise awareness and engage members in international health through surveys, online dialogues, and CME activities
  • Increase reporting to members on CMA involvement in international health through channels such as the CMAJ, CMA website, and Newsletter
  • Make it easier for members to become involved in international health by providing resources such as assistance with trip planning, addressing medical-legal considerations, advocating for increased job flexibility, and providing funding
  • Promote and facilitate opportunities for involvement including through virtual job fairs, a database of opportunities, encouraging participation in international health conferences, and recognition of member contributions
  • Focus on recruiting students and residents for international health initiatives

Next Steps

The CMA will use this information in determining the scope and focus of its international engagement. While there is no firm consensus, a majority of CMA members regard global initiatives as being of importance to the organization, and we will need to determine the best

Respondents told us

“… I think it’s important that CMA fills a gap that no one else fills. Don’t do things others can do for example. You can educate about those groups, liaise etc., but focus on unique areas for CMA…which to me would be representing Canada at international meetings i.e. WMA.”

“Being involved in international work is critically important. This is a role that the CMA must play.”

“I think an international focus can lend very valuable perspective to our daily experience in Canada. This is a potential enhancement for all parties concerned, including our patients.”

“I think the CMA should "think global but act local" and become more involved with advocating for refugee health care in Canada.”

“Although international health initiatives are trendy and often worthwhile, I think the CMA could help physicians contribute more to our own resource-poor communities in Canada rather than focusing on needs overseas. Creating initiatives with the First Nations population to improve health care delivery to remote communities could have a positive impact locally. For physicians/trainees who want to travel there are plenty of places in Canada with 'third-world'-like conditions that could benefit from capacity building and education.”

“Having worked in the developing world, the best use of members is often to have them provide services at home and send a portion of that money to well-regarded international charities. Actual boots-on-the-ground medical care of patients is best reserved for teaching situations where western expertise can be leveraged to provide local physicians with new skills and techniques. Unfortunately, many of these require equipment beyond the reach of many developing countries.”

“I believe that physicians have very specific health related interests that are identified at very early levels (medical school, residency). I think that initiatives geared towards these younger physicians will provide a longer, more sustainable model of involvement.”