Human resources for health interventions in high- and middle-income countries: Findings of an evidence review
Hamza, Mariam M.
Herbst, Christopher H.
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Witter, S., Hamza, M.M., Alazemi, N., Alluhidan, M., Alghaith, T. and Herbst, C.H. (2020) ‘Human resources for health interventions in high- and middle-income countries: findings of an evidence review’, Human Resources for Health, 18(1), p. 43. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12960-020-00484-w.
Many high- and middle-income countries face challenges in developing and maintaining a health workforce which can address changing population health needs. They have experimented with interventions which overlap with but have differences to those documented in low- and middle-income countries, where many of the recent literature reviews were undertaken. The aim of this paper is to fill that gap. It examines published and grey evidence on interventions to train, recruit, retain, distribute, and manage an effective health workforce, focusing on physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals in high- and middle-income countries. A search of databases, websites, and relevant references was carried out in March 2019. One hundred thirty-one reports or papers were selected for extraction, using a template which followed a health labor market structure. Many studies were cross-cutting; however, the largest number of country studies was focused on Canada, Australia, and the United States of America. The studies were relatively balanced across occupational groups. The largest number focused on availability, followed by performance and then distribution. Study numbers peaked in 2013–2016. A range of study types was included, with a high number of descriptive studies. Some topics were more deeply documented than others—there is, for example, a large number of studies on human resources for health (HRH) planning, educational interventions, and policies to reduce in-migration, but much less on topics such as HRH financing and task shifting. It is also evident that some policy actions may address more than one area of challenge, but equally that some policy actions may have conflicting results for different challenges. Although some of the interventions have been more used and documented in relation to specific cadres, many of the lessons appear to apply across them, with tailoring required to reflect individuals’ characteristics, such as age, location, and preferences. Useful lessons can be learned from these higher-income settings for low- and middle-income settings. Much of the literature is descriptive, rather than evaluative, reflecting the organic way in which many HRH reforms are introduced. A more rigorous approach to testing HRH interventions is recommended to improve the evidence in this area of health systems strengthening.