New Guidelines Help Stakeholders Work Together on Health Workforce Action

To help countries create effective partnerships to strengthen the health workforce, CapacityPlus has published user-friendly guidelines on stakeholder leadership groups. “Guidelines for forming and sustaining human resources for health stakeholder leadership groups,” by Wilma Gormley and Jim McCaffery, provides a practical set of actions to successfully launch and sustain these groups.

Guidelines for HRH Stakeholder Leadership GroupsThis new publication “provides guidance to help diverse stakeholders work together, plan, and address HRH issues,” says McCaffery. “It grows out of the now fairly commonly accepted understanding that to address HRH issues, you need people from different organizations or even sectors working together.” This may sound simple, but “this tool recognizes that it’s not necessarily easy to get people to do this kind of cooperative work on a sustained basis.”

These guidelines are aimed at “country-level HRH leaders who are trying to promote cross-organizational or cross-sectoral cooperation,” McCaffery notes. “That could be an HR director, a permanent secretary, an FBO leader—anybody that’s taking a broader look at improving the HRH situation and that needs to promote cross-sectoral or cross-organizational work.” Another group that will benefit is “multilateral and bilateral donors looking to promote or fund this critical HRH strengthening work.”

The issues involved in health workforce strengthening “all take good interorganizational work,” he says, such as “having a good HR information system, promoting attraction and retention of health workers in rural areas, developing good strategic plans.”

McCaffery gives an example. As the Capacity Project (the predecessor to CapacityPlus) started working with countries on their HR information systems, it was quickly apparent that success depended on getting diverse stakeholders together. “Information was often held in different locations,” he recalls. “Ministries, FBOs, councils, and universities had pockets of information, and inevitably the first step in the process was to form a multisectoral group so people would get in the same room and say, ‘Here’s what I’ve got.’” After pooling their information, they would then “look at the overall policy issues they wanted to address. We had groups in Uganda, Tanzania, Swaziland, and other countries,” he notes, which were important elements of the initiatives’ success.

Looking ahead, McCaffery explains that “a country in West Africa is trying to consider preservice education reforms. They could apply these guidelines to work together and address these reforms. Stakeholders would include the ministry of health, ministry of education, universities involved in preservice education, maybe the professional councils and FBOs—a broad range of players who have been looking at it through their own eyes.”

This publication is the first of its kind in terms of a set of practical guidelines. There have been numerous publications and studies on the need for cross-organizational and cross-sectoral work, and the WHO, PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA), among others, have recognized the importance of getting stakeholders to work together effectively to achieve sustainable results. “We took our own experience from this area of our specialty,” says McCaffery, “and put it all together into guidelines that are both evidence-based and experience-based. This should be useful at the country level, and will be a helpful tool for use by global partners like WHO as it supports Observatories, and by GHWA with its work to support Country Coordination and Facilitation mechanisms.”

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