Health Workforce Development

Health Workforce training with model baby

Crucial for efforts to provide universal health coverage is the strengthening of the existing health workforce – maximizing the talents that are currently available and building mechanisms to ensure that productivity, performance, and engagement will continue to improve as these resources grow and evolve.  In order to obtain desired results, it is necessary to both explore and develop the evidence to enhance our understanding of the factors that influence health worker outputs and clinical outcomes.  This is accomplished through innovative research that is then used to develop practical tools and guidance that is applied to analyze and strengthen health workforce planning, management, and development.  Applying improvement approaches to engage health workers in providing quality care and to empower teams to deliver better services to more users is an integral part of systems strengthening. 

In many countries the performance of health workers is constrained by factors such as regular stock-out of medicines, shortage of supplies, high levels of staff turnover, unclear job expectations, and limited feedback and supervision. Growing evidence suggests that improving the productivity and engagement of health workers and addressing performance factors within the health workforce contribute to improved care outcomes.  Improvement methods can help to:

  • Clarify roles and expectations, assess work distribution and rationalize tasks among team members, and introduce measurement of performance
  • Develop and test incentives, rewards and consequences that reinforce strong performance and discourage poor performance, from verbal recognition to career path and bonus mechanisms
  • Strengthen performance feedback mechanisms among members of the care delivery team, supervisors, and community members
  • Enhance the work environment, including both the physical environment (including safety and the availability of supplies) and the non-physical environment (including management practices that build confidence and security, mechanisms for coordination and communication, and protection from violence or harassment), to enable health workers to perform at their best
  • Build the competencies needed to implement tasks and perform at expected levels


Will health systems be ready to meet the post-MDG realities?

Ombretta Baggio, Senior Officer for Communications at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), collaborated with Allison Annette Foster on this blog and is a co-author.

How often do seismic shifts happen under our very feet, and before we realize it we are toppled by a changed landscape that we have not prepared to maneuver? Countries are facing such seismic shifts as they ponder their post-2015 national health strategies. Beyond the drive to reach the Millennium Development Goals, how will we re-engineer our systems to achieve Universal Health Coverage and meet the growing needs of long-term care and chronic conditions care?

An interview with Dr. Ram Shrestha:Supporting Community Health Workers- Where do we stand?

Rhea Bright

Quality Improvement & Human Resources for Health Advisor, USAID Bureau for Global Health Office of Health Systems

In this post, Rhea Bright interviews Dr. Ram Shrestha.

As a health professional, whenever I visit a rural village in a low-or middle-income country, several thoughts come to mind. Knowing that the formal health system usually ends at a health center, dispensary, or health post in these rural communities, does everyone in this village have access to health services? How can we ensure that there are enough health workers in nearby facilities to provide needed services? Are there community health workers (CHWs) in this village, and are they well supported? I started thinking more and more about these questions as World Health Worker Week (April 7-11, 2014) approached…consequently even more questions came to mind.

Health workers not only count – they are the frontline of health systems improvement

M. Rashad Massoud

Director, USAID ASSIST Project/URC

Diana Frymus

Health Systems Strengthening Advisor, USAID

This week we appreciate and celebrate those at the frontline of our health systems.  With that, let us recognize that there are critical health workforce shortages (7.2 million) which are set to increase to an even higher level of 12.9 million in 20 years.  Although many countries have made progress in setting national policies and plans to strengthen the workforce, implementation has been weak and progress has not kept pace with expectations, manifesting in low health worker morale, absenteeism, and high turnover.

Improving Human Resources Management in Health Systems

James Heiby

Project Officer, USAID ASSIST Project and Medical Officer, Office of Health Systems, USAID

The costs of health care are predominately those associated with people, the clinical and administrative staff that provide services. At the same time, there is widespread concern that these human resources are not well managed in many resource-constrained health systems. While Global Health organizations have invested substantial resources in human resources issues in recent years, few of those resources have focused on how health systems in these countries manage their largest resource.

Towards a National In-service Training Strategy

A consultative workshop was held August 13-15, 2012 with 35 participants representing the key stakeholder groups of FMOH, Regional Health Bureaus, higher training institutions, professional associations, development partners, and donors to...

Supporting Country-Led Efforts to Recruit and Retain Health Workers and Improve Their Productivity

Washington, DC

With the CapacityPlus and the World Bank, USAID ASSIST co-hosted a knowledge-sharing and dissemination event on "Supporting Country-Led Efforts to Recruit and Retain Health Workers and Improve Their Productivity" in Washington, DC.

Health Worker Engagement Study

The Tanzania Health Worker Engagement Study was undertaken with the support of PEPFAR under the USAID Health Care Improvement Project (HCI) and the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems Project (ASSIST) in collaboration...

Improving Health Worker Performance

USAID ASSIST explores the role of the health workforce in improving quality of care: How can countries engage their human resources to ensure that every patient gets the right care at the right time, every time? What systems changes can be...