Haiti Prioritizes Human Resources for Health

On Wednesday, I attended the Global Health Council Conference plenary session entitled "After the Earthquake: Towards Building a New Haitian Health System”, in which the Haitian Minister of Health, the Honorable Dr. Alex Larsen, discussed Haiti’s number one health priority—building the country’s human resources for health.

Dr. Larsen and partners of the Haitian Ministry of Health conveyed the futility of developing infrastructure and obtaining commodities without simultaneously bolstering the health care workforce. He mentioned three cadres of health workers that are currently in particularly high demand: community health workers, midwives, and nurse anesthesiologists.Dr. Larsen also discussed the importance of health systems planning to ensure that donations and technical assistance provided to Haiti respond to the country’s actual needs. In order to be effective, the health workforce should be distributed by cadre and location according to the actual health care priorities of the population, especially in a country where geographic and economic barriers present significant challenges to health care delivery. The issue of health worker retention must also be addressed in the face of low public sector salaries and competition from international recruiters.

Current development partners have gained invaluable experience working in Haiti over the past several decades, understand the health care needs as well as the culture of the Haitian population, and are providing critical technical assistance in building the capacity of the health workforce. However, it seems to me that there is a gap between what the government of Haiti is currently doing with its implementing partners and what Haiti needs on a systems support level in the coming years.

At this transformative point in Haiti’s planning for sector wide reform with an emphasis on the health workforce, CapacityPlus could add value to others’ contributions by offering technical expertise, tools, and guidance to support broader systems development in human resources planning and management; including the critical development of human resources information systems for the health sector.

Working with the Haitian government and current in-country implementing partners, I think that CapacityPlus could increase the impact of the US government’s development assistance program by providing the systems strengthening support needed to build an effective, sustainable health workforce.