HRH in Africa Day: Translating African National Strategies into Successful Programs

Hopital El Hadj Ibrahma Niaso Kaolack staffAfter many years of stagnation, the time has come for human resources for health (HRH) to be seen as a critical issue for Africa's development agenda.

Supporting African HRH efforts
At the HRH in Africa Day—a side session at the Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Bangkok—representatives from the African public sector, technical experts from universities, donor and technical assistance agencies, and nongovernmental organizations debated how to support countries to translate their national HRH strategies into successful programs.

Some of the main findings and points of agreement

  • Building HRH planning and management capacity in Africa at central, regional, and facility levels should be the goal. External advisors have a role, but increasingly this work should be planned and done by Africans.
  • Improved understanding of labor market dynamics in countries is needed for multiple reasons, including understanding and addressing the rural/urban maldistribution of the health workforce.
  • Motivation of health workers is an area requiring further study. While salary—a “living wage”—is often identified as a critical priority, there’s no one answer. Other factors, including the approach to remuneration and intrinsic motivation, must be taken into account.
  • Private and/or not-for-profit approaches will increasingly be part of most health education systems. The challenge for public policy-makers and practitioners will be in integrating these schools and training programs in the manner most likely to achieve national health outcome objectives.
  • There has been explosive growth of public and nonpublic health professional schools for all cadres. Less is known about nursing and public health schools’ education than medical doctor training.
  • Countries and external partners continue to search for tools and techniques to translate strategies into sustainable, harmonized results. Countries must take the lead, and others must synchronize their efforts to support and complement national planning Shaun Noronhaand budget priorities and cycles. It requires strong national capacity to lead the process and not simply respond to targets of opportunity.

The essence of health systems strengthening
Five years after the seminal World Health Report on HRH, there is still much work to be done. While there was no agreement on all aspects of these complex topics, JICA Health Division Director Ikuo Takizawa captured the essence of health systems strengthening when he characterized it as creating “an environment in which the health worker can perform better” for the people.

Sponsored by the World Bank, African Development Bank, HRH in Africa Platform, the World Health Organization, and CapacityPlus, the event reflected the growing interest, energy, and optimism regarding HRH in Africa.

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Photo 1 by Trevor Snapp. (Hopital El Hadj Ibrahma Niaso Kaolack staff, Senegal)
Photo 2 by David Nelson. (Shaun Norohna at HRH in Africa Day)

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