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The process of developing health workforce strategic plans in Africa: a document analysis

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BMJ
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Jennifer Nyoni, Christmal Dela Christmals, James Avoka Asamani, Mourtala Mahaman Abdou Illou, Sunny Okoroafor, Adam Ahmat

Abstract

Background Many countries are faced with a multitude of health workforce-related challenges partly attributed to defective health workforce planning. Earlier efforts to guide the process and harmonise approaches to national health workforce policies and planning in the Africa Region included, among others, the development of the WHO Africa Regional Office (WHO/AFRO) Policies and Plans for Human Resources for Health Guidelines for Countries in the WHO African Region in 2006. Although this guideline has led to uniformity and rigour in developing human resources for health (HRH) policies and strategies in Africa, it has become imperative to synthesise the emerging evidence and best practices in the development of health workforce strategies.

Methods A document analysis was conducted using the READ (Readying materials; Extracting data; Analysing data and Distilling) approach.

Results Fourteen HRH policy/strategic plans were included in the study. The scope of the HRH strategic plans was described in three dimensions: the term of the strategy, sectors covered by the strategy and the health workforce considered in the projections. We found that HRH strategic plan development can be conceptualised as a cyclical, sequential multimethod project, with one phase feeding the subsequent phase with data or instructions. The process is very complex, with different interest groups and sectors that need to be satisfied. The HRH strategic plan development process comprises five main phases linked with external forces and national politics.

Conclusion There is a need for accurate and comprehensive HRH data collection, astute HRH leadership, and broad base and multisectoral stakeholder consultation with technical support and guidance from experts and major external partners for effective HRH strategic plan development.