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J Am Coll Dent. 2014 Spring;81(1):31-5.

Sustainability and the principle of respect for community as a means of enhancing healthcare equality.


Global short-term dental or medical volunteerism has grown significantly in recent years. Dental and medical schools, their faculty, and students, are becoming increasingly interested in the experience of providing care to individuals in low-resource communities around the world. A laudable goal of such care is to provide care to individuals in low-resource communities and to work to achieve equity in health for all people. These goals are consistent with the American Dental Association's ethical principles of justice, beneficence, and nonmaleficence. This paper will discuss ethical guidelines for conducting these volunteer experiences with an emphasis placed on sustainability--the provision of ongoing collaborative care, between the institution overseeing the experience and the local community, after the visiting group has departed. The ultimate goal, global health care equity, requires transforming these shortterm efforts into long-term sustainable solutions. This goal is based on an ethical principle entitled respect for communities. This ethic can be likened to a community-wide application of the ethic of respect for autonomy as routinely applied to individuals such as patients. A tripartite model is proposed as a means for transforming short-term efforts into long-term sustainable solutions.

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