A scoping review of training and deployment policies for human resources for health for maternal, newborn, and child health in rural Africa

Gail Tomblin Murphy, Fastone Goma, Adrian MacKenzie, Stephanie Bradish, Sheri Price, Selestine Nzala, Annette Elliott Rose, Janet Rigby, Chilweza Muzongwe, Nellisiwe Chizuni, Amanda Carey, Derrick Hamavhwa
Human Resources for Health 2014, 12: 72

BACKGROUND: Most African countries are facing a human resources for health (HRH) crisis, lacking the required workforce to deliver basic health care, including care for mothers and children. This is especially acute in rural areas and has limited countries' abilities to meet maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) targets outlined by Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. To address the HRH challenges, evidence-based deployment and training policies are required. However, the resources available to country-level policy makers to create such policies are limited. To inform future HRH planning, a scoping review was conducted to identify the type, extent, and quality of evidence that exists on HRH policies for rural MNCH in Africa.

METHODS: Fourteen electronic health and health education databases were searched for peer-reviewed papers specific to training and deployment policies for doctors, nurses, and midwives for rural MNCH in African countries with English, Portuguese, or French as official languages. Non-peer reviewed literature and policy documents were also identified through systematic searches of selected international organizations and government websites. Documents were included based on pre-determined criteria.

RESULTS: There was an overall paucity of information on training and deployment policies for HRH for MNCH in rural Africa; 37 articles met the inclusion criteria. Of these, the majority of primary research studies employed a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods. Doctors, nurses, and midwives were equally represented in the selected policy literature. Policies focusing exclusively on training or deployment were limited; most documents focused on both training and deployment or were broader with embedded implications for the management of HRH or MNCH. Relevant government websites varied in functionality and in the availability of policy documents.

CONCLUSIONS: The lack of available documentation and an apparent bias towards HRH research in developed areas suggest a need for strengthened capacity for HRH policy research in Africa. This will result in enhanced potential for evidence uptake into policy. Enhanced alignment between policy-makers' information needs and the independent research agenda could further assist knowledge development and uptake. The results of this scoping review informed an in-depth analysis of relevant policies in a sub-set of African countries.

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