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Background: Despite a decline in infant mortality rates in the Global South (GS), there has been a rise in congenital and developmental disabilities. International short-term medical (ISTM) missions in Guatemala seek to address the surgical needs of children from low SES communities, but the understanding of the impacts of such assistance and the post-surgical needs of these communities remains limited. Embracing the Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) to healthcare as a foundation for this study recognizes health as a fundamental human right. The main tenets of this approach will guide this investigation to understand the post-surgical needs of children and their families from low socioeconomic status (SES) communities post ISTM. The research question examined includes, What are the lived experiences and challenges of rehabilitating/habilitating children from low SES families after STM-provided orthopedic surgeries?

Methodology: The qualitative Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis was conducted with a sample size of five participants (parent/guardian) using the following inclusion criteria: parent/caregiver whose child (aged between newborn-17 years) had undergone orthopedic surgery through an ISTM and received no therapy services post-surgery for more than six weeks. Data collection involved the investigator's field journal during immersion at local host organizations and the semi-structured participant interviews. Data analysis consisted of open coding, memoing, fracturing, and examining for emerging themes. The IPA analysis allowed the investigator to take a constructivist approach to explore the emerging themes and people's experiences based on the context and literature available on this topic.

Findings: The superordinate themes that emerged from the research included "Pre-Surgical Experiences," "The Center's Impact," and "Post-Surgical Experiences." Subordinate themes that met data saturation included "Challenges in Low-SES Communities," "Low Health Literacy," "Role of Extended Family," and "Cultural Beliefs."

Implications: The study sheds light on diverse challenges faced by low SES communities from an HBRA perspective, where health is viewed as a human right. People from low SES communities benefit temporarily from ISTM services; however, the pre-and post-experiences are detrimental to health and QOL. International missions must embrace the HBRA approach and attempt to collaborate with local organizations so individuals from low SES communities' rights to health are observed across the lifespan.

Publication Date

Summer 8-9-2023


University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences


Short-Term Medical Missions, Human Rights, Guatemala, Quality of Life


Community Health | Health Services Research | Occupational Therapy | Public Health Education and Promotion | Social Justice


Poster presented at the Summer 2023 Virtual OTD Capstone Symposium held online at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences on August 2-9, 2023

Exploring the Post-surgical Needs of Guatemalan Children and their Families from Low Socioeconomic Status (SES) Communities Using an Occupational Therapy Perspective