By Asha George, Kerry Scott, Ligia Paina, Raeda AbuAlRub, Luis Huicho and Uta Lehmann
This year – ten years since the WHO’s landmark report on Working Together for Health – the World Health Assembly approved a Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health and the secretary-general is convening a high-level commission on health employment and economic growth. These initiatives confirm that health workers play a pivotal and dynamic role in health systems and economies worldwide, whether immediately responding to new and old pandemics and health crises, or in supporting universal health coverage and the sustainable development goals more broadly.
It is now widely acknowledged that health workers’ roles and practices; their identities and motivation; their training, support and deployment are at the centre of successes and failures of health interventions and health system functioning. The past few years have seen a proliferation of research on these and others topics related to human resources for health (HRH), drawing from a range of disciplines such as public health, sociology, psychology, organizational and management sciences.
The idea for a reader emerged from the need for guidance on and examples of excellent HRH research, embracing how health workers are creative and dynamic agents best placed alongside patients, managers and policy-makers to address contemporary health system complexities.
This contemporary viewpoint underscores important shifts in the HRH field. Whereas HRH research traditionally focused on the medical professions, in today’s world there is increasing attention to a much more diverse set of HRH cadres, including nurses, auxiliary medical personnel, informal providers, front-line or community health workers, and home carers. In addition, while HRH policy previously focused on training, recruitment and deployment, recent concerns span issues related to migration, retention, dual practice, accountability, informal markets, gender bias and violence, as well as the need for HRH management and leadership in mixed and often poorly regulated health systems.
The reader builds upon recent efforts by the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research to strengthen health systems research approaches, including the Health Systems Research Methodology Reader, the Implementation Research Guide, and the Participatory Action Research Methods Reader.
While HRH research, although not strictly defined, has demonstrated increasing interest in multi- and trans-disciplinary approaches alongside recent advances in health systems research, these have not yet been documented in a cohesive fashion. The reader will promote greater understanding of the varied research approaches that can be applied to HRH, spur interest in and discussion on the value of and rigour required in HRH research, and provide resources that can be used for teaching and capacity development on HRH for researchers and practitioners alike.
Our aim is to not have a reader that gathers dust on bookshelves. To inform future research, policy and practice, we aim to make the development of the reader an inclusive process that supports the HRH community and its engagement with health systems research. Our strategy includes online consultations, webinars, blogs and teaching materials to ensure that the reader is relevant and used by the broad range of stakeholders that make up the HRH community.
A core team of researchers with varied disciplinary backgrounds, regional experiences and familiarity with HRH research approaches will steer the development of the volume. The core team is led by Asha George and Uta Lehmann at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and Kerry Scott, independent researcher, India; with inputs from Ligia Paina, Johns Hopkins University, USA; Raeda F. AbuAlRub, University of Science and Technology, Jordan; and Luis Huicho, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Peru. The work of the core team will be informed by inputs from a larger reference group representing HRH research expertise from across the globe.
Please join us in this endeavour. If you would like to do so, please send us your details and desired level of engagement through this survey.