Understanding the Holistic Model of Global Medical Brigades

Oct 27, 2023 9:48:00 AM | International Volunteering Understanding the Holistic Model of Global Medical Brigades

Learn more about Global Brigades’ Holistic Model, including how we partner with communities, the role of Medical Brigades, and how to get involved.

Medical mission trips draw interest from pre-med students looking to volunteer in underserved communities while at the same time gaining clinical experience before applying to medical school. 

Some students choose this route for altruistic reasons and a genuine interest in global health, while others pick it for more personal or professional motives, which can be ethically questionable

At Global Medical Brigades, we set ourselves apart from voluntourism trips with our Holistic Model. We are adamant about building community ownership and collaboration to empower the communities we serve. Building our Medical Brigades around our Holistic Model allows students to learn and communities to rise permanently out of poverty.

What Is the Holistic Model of Medical Brigades?

The Global Medical Brigades Holistic Model is a 3-part commitment between our health systems, water and sanitation brigades, and economic development teams. Our end goal is to improve the health and economic status of the communities in which we are involved so they are empowered to permanently rise out of poverty.

Our Holistic Model corresponds to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our model starts with mobile medical clinics and preventative health workshops while systematically building community ownership by training select volunteers to become Community Health Workers for year-round care. 

In the end, our brigades aim to sustainably evolve into a relationship of impact monitoring. 

To simplify it, the Holistic Model listens to a community’s needs, helps the community form strong leadership and organization, and seeks to build a continuous partnership through the hard work of volunteers, staff, and community members.

Want to join an ethical medical program that makes a sustainable impact? Learn more about Global Medical Brigades, the largest student-led movement for global health. 

Who Does the Global Brigades Holistic Model Involve?

The Holistic Model involves everyone! You, as a volunteer, are a part of the Holistic Model, and so are the staff, the community members, and the donors with their own unique roles.

Our in-country staff and community members are some of the most involved people in the Holistic Model. Community health workers (CHWs) work in each of our partner communities year-round to improve healthcare access, supported by short-term brigades with trained pre-med students.

Volunteers help further along the development goals in our partner communities. As a member or leader of a Brigade Chapter, you’ll get significant training on both the community where you’ll work, how to meet your Donation Goal, and how to effectively support CHWs on-site.

Donors are also a big part of our Holistic Model. With donor support of our brigades and the Holistic Model, we are able to scale the impact, hire full-time local teams and perpetuate the work between brigades to maximize impact.

Everyone can be a part of the Holistic Model, and we encourage you to take an active role!

How Does the Global Medical Brigades Holistic Model Work?

The Holistic Model is a process for Global Brigades to empower a community. When the health and economic projects have been taken over by the community, and we are only needed for follow-up and guidance, we consider this an “Empowered Community.”

It starts by forming leadership in communities and engaging in development. Then, we guide the communities through the implementation and various sectors of our programs so everyone understands how they will work together.

When a community expresses interest in long-term programming, we start addressing the 6 goals of Empowered Communities. The first 2 goals are carried out by the Medical Brigades and Dental Brigades

Goal 1 is regular, equal, and affordable access to healthcare. Your volunteer experience may involve our mobile medical clinics and workshops. During your medical brigade, you’ll help facilitate medical consultations and screenings based on the needs of the community. 

Goal 2 is to have our staff train Community Health Workers to provide basic medical care and urgent care, and monitor chronic conditions year-round. Global Medical Brigades has trained 700 Community Health Workers to serve members of their communities.

Goal 3 is to provide access to clean water. This is done by Water Brigades and Engineering Brigades. The Public Health Brigades play a more significant role in Goal 4, which is a comprehensive adoption of public health infrastructure projects. 

The last two goals involve the Business Brigades and include equal access to affordable credit through a Community Bank and to increase and diversity income.

Once all 6 overarching programmatic goals are complete, the community is considered empowered.

If you can’t travel but are a pre-med student and want to make a difference, consider a Medical TeleBrigade. Partnering with us virtually still helps make positive change. 

How Are Global Medical Brigades Sustainable?

We measure the sustainability of the Holistic Model in a few ways. The Empowered 100 (E100) scales the impact we make, aligns with international Sustainable Development Goals, and uses our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team to refine the Holistic Model. 

The primary objective is to empower partner communities to rise out of global poverty through the 6 programmatic goals of the Holistic Model. 

Our Monitoring and Evaluation team measures the effects of our programming in the community. With continuous monitoring and evaluation, they support Global Brigades’ Holistic Model in community selection, program development, internal monitoring, and measuring impact and outcomes. 

This helps us see the sustainable impact for beneficiaries. 

In addition, after a community is empowered, the M&E team follows up to understand the impact of our programming directly from beneficiaries. We are continuously checking with our partner communities to ensure that the programs we have implemented are sustained!

Do We Send Volunteers to Communities That Have Completed the Holistic Model?

We do not usually send medical volunteers to empowered communities because, at this stage, it would not be necessary.

We have local staff visit communities to make sure everything is up-to-date, and there are no issues. We also have a Community Health Worker program that is made up of volunteers from the local communities to facilitate basic health services.

We have many partner communities that have completed all of the goals of the Holistic Model, but that does not mean the work stops. We are always looking for ways to empower partner communities to continue to achieve their health and economic goals. 

Does Global Brigades get grants for its holistic model?

Yes, it is an internationally recognized international development organization having secured millions of dollars in funding from the likes of the UNDP, World Bank, InterAmerican Development Bank, Rotary, Kiva various Family Foundations and many many more. 

But none of these grants would have been possible without volunteers taking the first step to fund these year-round programs.  

Empowering Communities Through the Holistic Model

The Holistic Model is a tool we use to collaborate with community partners in order to enable communities. It is also a way we can reflect on our programming to make sure that it is always sustainable. 

Pedro Galindo, a member of the Community Bank from the community of Cerro Bonito in Honduras, said, 

“Since Global Brigades has come, people have seen the difference they have made. They have taught us that if you want something, you have to work for it. We are very thankful for Global Brigades. Since we’ve built this partnership with Global Brigades, things have been a lot better in our community, and we hope to continue this partnership.” 

We plan on continuing the partnership we have with the community of Cerro Bonito, as well as all of the other partnerships we have made.

The Holistic Model may differ from community to community and country to country, but the impact and empowerment remain the same.

Take an active role in the Holistic Model as a volunteer! Get Involved with Global Medical Brigades.


Written By: Alexa