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Globalisation is creating new patterns of health and disease – increase in global trade, travel, communication and migration have obscured the traditional distinction between national and global health. Volunteering in low resource healthcare settings provide one of the several ways that UK healthcare professionals can increase their expertise in global health. Not only providing an opportunity to contribute towards improving the health of vulnerable populations, individuals who volunteer often acquire personal and professional skills that are transferable to the NHS, and international health partnerships can help stimulate innovation in both settings. The BMA Humanitarian Fund is designed to support and encourage the development of new initiatives, and health teams undertaking humanitarian and development projects. Applications to the 2017 funding round are now invited. The Fund offers grants of up to £3,000 for projects taking place in low resource settings. In a review of volunteering, undertaken by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, a number of obstacles to volunteering were reported - which are all too familiar. These include the granting of time out from training or employment, the lack of formal recognition of volunteering for professional development and the level of additional expenditures and the loss of employment rights for longer periods of volunteering. The BMA Humanitarian Fund alleviates some of this financial burden, through covering travel and accommodation costs incurred when volunteering. Projects supported must offer a clear health benefit to the local population, and should have a sustainable and far reaching impact. Previously supported projects are wide-ranging, and have included surgical camps in sub-Saharan Africa, to medical education and training programmes in south Asia. Read more about the projects that have been supported and find out how to apply here.
Arthy Santhakumar is Head of International and Immigration at the BMA