Global service learning and health systems strengthening: An integrative literature review

Adam Beaman, Reiko Asano, David Sibbritt, Phillip J. Newton, Patricia M. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: The sustainability of many global interventions, in the absence of adequate local financial and human resources to sustain them in the long term, is questioned. In response, there has been a shift in focus among global health actors towards the strengthening of local health systems via global service learning to effectively, efficiently and sustainably deliver healthcare and build capacity. There has been considerable research examining the benefits of global service learning experiences for students, but limited research has been conducted to determine the impact that health sciences global service learning experiences are having on the host country health systems. Main text: An integrative review of the literature was conducted to examine the linkages between global service-learning and health systems strengthening. A comprehensive search of international literature from 2005 to 2017 in PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, ERIC, Scopus and Web of Science databases was conducted. The search was limited to peer-reviewed articles published in English language. Thematic analysis revealed three key themes: a dominant service-LEARNING typology, a unidirectional pattern from high-income to low and middle-income countries, and the preeminence of the nursing discipline in global service learning. There was limited evidence on sustainability and health systems strengthening. Conclusions: The healthcare workforce of the future is willing to meet the challenges facing health systems across the globe. Global service-learning has yet to be examined in the context of health systems strengthening and particularly within a context of reciprocity. The onus is on higher education institutions in high-income countries to develop and deliver evidence-based global service-learning that is beneficial and engaging for students while most effectively meeting the need of the global community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00713
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Education
  • Health profession
  • Nursing
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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