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1.  Comparative Performance of Private and Public Healthcare Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001244.
A systematic review conducted by Sanjay Basu and colleagues reevaluates the evidence relating to comparative performance of public versus private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Introduction
Private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries is sometimes argued to be more efficient, accountable, and sustainable than public sector delivery. Conversely, the public sector is often regarded as providing more equitable and evidence-based care. We performed a systematic review of research studies investigating the performance of private and public sector delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Peer-reviewed studies including case studies, meta-analyses, reviews, and case-control analyses, as well as reports published by non-governmental organizations and international agencies, were systematically collected through large database searches, filtered through methodological inclusion criteria, and organized into six World Health Organization health system themes: accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency. Of 1,178 potentially relevant unique citations, data were obtained from 102 articles describing studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. Comparative cohort and cross-sectional studies suggested that providers in the private sector more frequently violated medical standards of practice and had poorer patient outcomes, but had greater reported timeliness and hospitality to patients. Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private than in the public sector, resulting in part from perverse incentives for unnecessary testing and treatment. Public sector services experienced more limited availability of equipment, medications, and trained healthcare workers. When the definition of “private sector” included unlicensed and uncertified providers such as drug shop owners, most patients appeared to access care in the private sector; however, when unlicensed healthcare providers were excluded from the analysis, the majority of people accessed public sector care. “Competitive dynamics” for funding appeared between the two sectors, such that public funds and personnel were redirected to private sector development, followed by reductions in public sector service budgets and staff.
Conclusions
Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is usually more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector; however, the public sector appears frequently to lack timeliness and hospitality towards patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health care can be provided through public and private providers. Public health care is usually provided by the government through national healthcare systems. Private health care can be provided through “for profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not for profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations.
There is considerable ideological debate around whether low- and middle-income countries should strengthen public versus private healthcare services, but in reality, most low- and middle-income countries use both types of healthcare provision. Recently, as the global economic recession has put major constraints on government budgets—the major funding source for healthcare expenditures in most countries—disputes between the proponents of private and public systems have escalated, further fuelled by the recommendation of International Monetary Fund (an international finance institution) that countries increase the scope of private sector provision in health care as part of loan conditions to reduce government debt. However, critics of the private health sector believe that public healthcare provision is of most benefit to poor people and is the only way to achieve universal and equitable access to health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both sides of the public versus private healthcare debate draw on selected case reports to defend their viewpoints, but there is a widely held view that the private health system is more efficient than the public health system. Therefore, in order to inform policy, there is an urgent need for robust evidence to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided through both systems. In this study, the authors reviewed all of the evidence in a systematic way to evaluate available data on public and private sector performance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used eight databases and a comprehensive key word search to identify and review appropriate published data and studies of private and public sector performance in low- and middle-income countries. They assessed selected studies against the World Health Organization's six essential themes of health systems—accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency—and conducted a narrative review of each theme.
Out of the 102 relevant studies included in their comparative analysis, 59 studies were research studies and 13 involved meta-analysis, with the rest involving case reports or reviews. The researchers found that study findings varied considerably across countries studied (one-third of studies were conducted in Africa and a third in Southeast Asia) and by the methods used.
Financial barriers to care (such as user fees) were reported for both public and private systems. Although studies report that patients in the private sector experience better timeliness and hospitality, studies suggest that providers in the private sector more frequently violate accepted medical standards and have lower reported efficiency.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review did not support previous views that private sector delivery of health care in low- and middle-income settings is more efficient, accountable, or effective than public sector delivery. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, in both sectors, there were financial barriers to care, and each had poor accountability and transparency. This systematic review highlights a limited and poor-quality evidence base regarding the comparative performance of the two systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244.
A previous PLoS Medicine study examined the outpatient care provided by the public and private sector in low-income countries
The WHO website provides more information on healthcare systems
The World Bank website provides information on health system financing
Oxfam provides an argument against increased private health care in poor countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
2.  South Africa’s protracted struggle for equal distribution and equitable access – still not there 
The purpose of this contribution is to analyse and explain the South African HRH case, its historical evolution, and post-apartheid reform initiatives aimed at addressing deficiencies and shortfalls. HRH in South Africa not only mirrors the nature and diversity of challenges globally, but also the strategies pursued by countries to address these challenges. Although South Africa has strongly developed health professions, large numbers of professional and mid-level workers, and also well-established training institutions, it is experiencing serious workforce shortages and access constraints. This results from the unequal distribution of health workers between the well-resourced private sector over the poorly-resourced public sector, as well as from distributional disparities between urban and rural areas. During colonial and apartheid times, disparities were aggravated by policies of racial segregation and exclusion, remnants of which are today still visible in health-professional backlogs, unequal provincial HRH distribution, and differential access to health services for specific race and class groups.
Since 1994, South Africa’s transition to democracy deeply transformed the health system, health professions and HRH establishments. The introduction of free-health policies, the district health system and the prioritisation of PHC ensured more equal distribution of the workforce, as well as greater access to services for deprived groups. However, the HIV/AIDS epidemic brought about huge demands for care and massive patient loads in the public-sector. The emigration of health professionals to developed countries and to the private sector also undermines the strength and effectiveness of the public health sector. For the poor, access to care thus remains constrained and in perpetual shortfall.
The post-1994 government has introduced several HRH-specific strategies to recruit, distribute, motivate and retain health professionals to strengthen the public sector and to expand access and coverage. Of great significance among these is the NHI Plan that aims to bridge the structural divide and to redistribute material and human resources more equally. Its success largely hinges on HRH and the balanced deployment of the national workforce.
Low- and middle-income countries have much to learn from South African HRH experiences. In turn, South Africa has much to learn from other countries, as this case study shows.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-12-26
PMCID: PMC4029937  PMID: 24885691
South Africa; HRH policies; reforms; shortages; access; distribution; retention; inequalities; disparities
3.  Evaluating Drug Prices, Availability, Affordability, and Price Components: Implications for Access to Drugs in Malaysia 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e82.
Background
Malaysia's stable health care system is facing challenges with increasing medicine costs. To investigate these issues a survey was carried out to evaluate medicine prices, availability, affordability, and the structure of price components.
Methods and Findings
The methodology developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI) was used. Price and availability data for 48 medicines was collected from 20 public sector facilities, 32 private sector retail pharmacies and 20 dispensing doctors in four geographical regions of West Malaysia. Medicine prices were compared with international reference prices (IRPs) to obtain a median price ratio. The daily wage of the lowest paid unskilled government worker was used to gauge the affordability of medicines. Price component data were collected throughout the supply chain, and markups, taxes, and other distribution costs were identified. In private pharmacies, innovator brand (IB) prices were 16 times higher than the IRPs, while generics were 6.6 times higher. In dispensing doctor clinics, the figures were 15 times higher for innovator brands and 7.5 for generics. Dispensing doctors applied high markups of 50%–76% for IBs, and up to 316% for generics. Retail pharmacy markups were also high—25%–38% and 100%–140% for IBs and generics, respectively. In the public sector, where medicines are free, availability was low even for medicines on the National Essential Drugs List. For a month's treatment for peptic ulcer disease and hypertension people have to pay about a week's wages in the private sector.
Conclusions
The free market by definition does not control medicine prices, necessitating price monitoring and control mechanisms. Markups for generic products are greater than for IBs. Reducing the base price without controlling markups may increase profits for retailers and dispensing doctors without reducing the price paid by end users. To increase access and affordability, promotion of generic medicines and improved availability of medicines in the public sector are required.
Drug price and availability data were collected from West Malaysian public sector facilities, private sector retail pharmacies, and dispensing doctors. Mark-ups were higher on generic drugs than on innovator brands.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The World Health Organization has said that one-third of the people of the world cannot access the medicines they need. An important reason for this problem is that prices are often too high for people or government-funded health systems to afford. In developing countries, most people who need medicines have to pay for them out of their own pockets. Where the cost of drugs is covered by health systems, spending on medicines is a major part of the total healthcare budget. Governments use a variety of approaches to try to control the cost of drugs and make sure that essential medicines are affordable and not overpriced. According to the theory of “free market economics,” the costs of goods and services are determined by interactions between buyers and sellers and not by government intervention. However, free market economics does not work well at containing the costs of medicines, particularly new medicines, because new medicines are protected by patent law, which legally prevents others from making, using, or selling the medicine for a particular period of time. Therefore, without government intervention, there is nothing to help to push down prices.
Why Was This Study Done?
Malaysia is a middle-income country with a relatively effective public health system, but it is facing a rapid rise in drug costs. In Malaysia, medicine prices are determined by free-market economics, without any control by government. Government hospitals are expected to provide drugs free, but a substantial proportion of medicines are paid for by patients who buy them directly from private pharmacies or prescribing doctors. There is evidence that Malaysian patients have difficulties accessing the drugs they need and that cost is an important factor. Therefore, the researchers who wrote this paper wanted to examine the cost of different medicines in Malaysia, and their availability and affordability from different sources.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this research project, 48 drugs were studied, of which 28 were part of a “core list” identified by the World Health Organization as “essential drugs” on the basis of the global burden of disease. The remaining 20 reflected health care needs in Malaysia itself. The costs of each medicine were collected from government hospitals, private pharmacies, and dispensing doctors in four different regions of Malaysia. Data were collected for the “innovator brand” (made by the original patent holder) and for “generic” brands (an equivalent drug to the innovator brand, produced by a different company once the innovator brand no longer has an exclusive patent). The medicine prices were compared against international reference prices (IRP), which are the average prices offered by not-for-profit drug companies to developing countries. Finally, the researchers also compared the cost of the drugs with daily wages, in order to work out their “affordability.”
The researchers found that, irrespective of the source of medicines, prices were on average very much higher than the international reference price, ranging from 2.4 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through public hospitals, to 16 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through private pharmacies. The availability of medicines was also very poor, with only 25% of generic medicines available on average through the public sector. The affordability of many of the medicines studied was again very poor. For example, one month's supply of ranitidine (a drug for stomach ulcers) was equivalent to around three days' wages for a low-paid government worker, and one month's supply of fluoxetine (an antidepressant) would cost around 26 days' wages.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results show that essential drugs are very expensive in Malaysia and are not universally available. Many people would not be able to pay for essential medicines. The cost of medicines in Malaysia seems to be much higher than in areas of India and Sri Lanka, although the researchers did not attempt to collect data in order to carry out an international comparison. It is possible that the high cost and low availability in Malaysia are the result of a lack of government regulation. Overall, the findings suggest that the government should set up mechanisms to prevent drug manufacturers from increasing prices too much and thus ensure greater access to essential medicines.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040082.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Suzanne Hill
Information is available from the World Health Organization on Improving Access to Medicines
Information on medicine prices is available from Health Action International
Wikipedia has an entry on Patent (a type of intellectual property that is normally used to prevent other companies from selling a newly invented medicine). (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit.)
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative is an international collaboration between public organizations that aims to develop drugs for people suffering from neglected diseases
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040082
PMCID: PMC1831730  PMID: 17388660
4.  Quality of Private and Public Ambulatory Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries: Systematic Review of Comparative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000433.
Paul Garner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 80 studies to compare the quality of private versus public ambulatory health care in low- and middle-income countries.
Background
In developing countries, the private sector provides a substantial proportion of primary health care to low income groups for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These providers are therefore central to improving health outcomes. We need to know how their services compare to those of the public sector to inform policy options.
Methods and Findings
We summarised reliable research comparing the quality of formal private versus public ambulatory health care in low and middle income countries. We selected studies against inclusion criteria following a comprehensive search, yielding 80 studies. We compared quality under standard categories, converted values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarised median values of the differences across studies. As the results for for-profit and not-for-profit providers were similar, we combined them. Overall, median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Overall, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort. No difference between provider groups was detected for patient satisfaction or competence. Synthesis of qualitative components indicates the private sector is more client centred.
Conclusions
Although data are limited, quality in both provider groups seems poor, with the private sector performing better in drug availability and aspects of delivery of care, including responsiveness and effort, and possibly being more client orientated. Strategies seeking to influence quality in both groups are needed to improve care delivery and outcomes for the poor, including managing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The provision of private (“for-profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not-for-profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations) versus public health care services in low and middle income countries raises considerable ideological debate. Ideological arguments aside—which can be very passionate on both sides—there is general agreement that improving the quality of both public and private health care could have a major impact on improved health outcomes, especially as the private sector is so widely used in low and middle income countries. For example, almost three quarters and half of children from the poorest households of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, seek health care from a private provider when they are ill. Private providers are also increasingly responsible for outpatient care for non-communicable diseases.
As a result of the mixed health care system in many low and middle income countries, adequate oversight and stewardship of the mixed system from the national government is essential yet often missing.
Why Was This Study Done?
An understanding of how quality and performance in the private sector compares with that in the public sector would help governments to prioritize where they need to concentrate their efforts. So, for example, if the private sector is generally providing poorer quality care than the public sector, then there is an imperative to improve the quality and outcomes; on the other hand, if the quality of care offered by the private sector is good, the policy priority is to influence the market to further improve access to such health care for low income groups.
In order to help with this comparison, the researchers wanted to systematically identify and summarize the results of studies that directly compared the quality of care offered by public providers with the one offered by “formal” private providers (recognized by law) and “informal” private providers (providers that are not legally recognized, such as lay health workers and shop keepers). For the purposes of this study the researchers focused their comparison on the private and public provision of outpatient care in low and middle income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their literature review, the researchers searched for relevant studies reported in English, French, or German and published between January 1970 and April 2009. Only studies that compared private and public outpatient medical services in the same country, at the same time, using the same methods, and which met particular quality criteria, were included in the analysis. The researchers also had strict criteria for including qualitative studies, and they retrieved the full text of articles, contacted study authors where appropriate, and verified with a second researcher most (80%) of the extracted study data. In order to evaluate and compare the studies, the researchers converted study values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarized the median values of the differences across studies.
The researchers identified a total of 8,812 relevant titles and abstracts and found 80 studies that included direct quantitative comparisons of public and private formal providers. Ten studies included qualitative data. Most studies were conducted after 1990, and mainly in sub-Saharan Africa (n = 39) and Asia and the Pacific (n = 23). Most studies did not report socio-economic status of public and private service users, and only five studies presented data by different income groups. No study compared the same individual providers working in public and private care settings. Only two studies compared public providers and private informal providers, so the authors excluded these from subsequent analysis.
For the formal sector, since the results for “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” providers were similar, the researchers decided to combine the results. Overall, the researchers found that the median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low (less than 50%) on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Generally, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort, but there was no detectable difference between provider groups for patient satisfaction. Furthermore, a synthesis of qualitative data suggested that the private sector may be more client-centered.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Based on the findings of this review, there is a clear need to consider the quality of primary health services in both the public and private sector in order to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries. These findings also indicate that, for some aspects of care, on average the private sector provided better quality services. The overall low quality of care in both the formal private and public sector found in this review is worrying, and calls for the governments of low and middle income countries to find and implement effective strategies to improve the quality in both sectors. This is particularly important given the increasing volume of conditions that require relatively sophisticated, long-term ambulatory medical care, such as non-communicable diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jishnu Das
WHO has more information on health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries
WHO has more information on noncommunicable diseases
The World Bank's World Development Report for 2004 addresses health care for poor people
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433
PMCID: PMC3075233  PMID: 21532746
5.  Brain Drain and Health Workforce Distortions in Mozambique 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35840.
Introduction
Trained human resources are fundamental for well-functioning health systems, and the lack of health workers undermines public sector capacity to meet population health needs. While external brain drain from low and middle-income countries is well described, there is little understanding of the degree of internal brain drain, and how increases in health sector funding through global health initiatives may contribute to the outflow of health workers from the public sector to donor agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the private sector.
Methods
An observational study was conducted to estimate the degree of internal and external brain drain among Mozambican nationals qualifying from domestic and foreign medical schools between 1980–2006. Data were collected 26-months apart in 2008 and 2010, and included current employment status, employer, geographic location of employment, and main work duties.
Results
Of 723 qualifying physicians between 1980–2006, 95.9% (693) were working full-time, including 71.1% (493) as clinicians, 20.5% (142) as health system managers, and 6.9% (48) as researchers/professors. 25.5% (181) of the sample had left the public sector, of which 62.4% (113) continued working in-country and 37.6% (68) emigrated from Mozambique. Of those cases of internal migration, 66.4% (75) worked for NGOs, 21.2% (24) for donor agencies, and 12.4% (14) in the private sector. Annual incidence of physician migration was estimated to be 3.7%, predominately to work in the growing NGO sector. An estimated 36.3% (41/113) of internal migration cases had previously held senior-level management positions in the public sector.
Discussion
Internal migration is an important contributor to capital flight from the public sector, accounting for more cases of physician loss than external migration in Mozambique. Given the urgent need to strengthen public sector health systems, frank reflection by donors and NGOs is needed to assess how hiring practices may undermine the very systems they seek to strengthen.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035840
PMCID: PMC3338796  PMID: 22558237
6.  United States Private-Sector Physicians and Pharmaceutical Contract Research: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001271.
Jill Fisher and Corey Kalbaugh describe their findings from a qualitative research study evaluating the motivations of private-sector physicians conducting contract research for the pharmaceutical industry.
Background
There have been dramatic increases over the past 20 years in the number of nonacademic, private-sector physicians who serve as principal investigators on US clinical trials sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. However, there has been little research on the implications of these investigators' role in clinical investigation. Our objective was to study private-sector clinics involved in US pharmaceutical clinical trials to understand the contract research arrangements supporting drug development, and specifically how private-sector physicians engaged in contract research describe their professional identities.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a qualitative study in 2003–2004 combining observation at 25 private-sector research organizations in the southwestern United States and 63 semi-structured interviews with physicians, research staff, and research participants at those clinics. We used grounded theory to analyze and interpret our data. The 11 private-sector physicians who participated in our study reported becoming principal investigators on industry clinical trials primarily because contract research provides an additional revenue stream. The physicians reported that they saw themselves as trial practitioners and as businesspeople rather than as scientists or researchers.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that in addition to having financial motivation to participate in contract research, these US private-sector physicians have a professional identity aligned with an industry-based approach to research ethics. The generalizability of these findings and whether they have changed in the intervening years should be addressed in future studies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Before a new drug can be used routinely by physicians, it must be investigated in clinical trials—studies that test the drug's safety and effectiveness in people. In the past, clinical trials were usually undertaken in academic medical centers (institutes where physicians provide clinical care, do research, and teach), but increasingly, clinical trials are being conducted in the private sector as part of a growing contract research system. In the US, for example, most clinical trials completed in the 1980s took place in academic medical centers, but nowadays, more than 70% of trials are conducted by nonacademic (community) physicians working under contract to pharmaceutical companies. The number of private-sector nonacademic physicians serving as principal investigators (PIs) for US clinical trials (the PI takes direct responsibility for completion of the trial) increased from 4,000 in 1990 to 20,250 in 2010, and research contracts for clinical trials are now worth more than USṩ11 billion annually.
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, there has been little research on the implications of this change in the conduct of clinical trials. Academic PIs are often involved in both laboratory and clinical research and are therefore likely to identify closely with the science of trials. By contrast, nonacademic PIs may see clinical trials more as a business opportunity—pharmaceutical contract research is profitable to US physicians because they get paid for every step of the trial process. As a result, pharmaceutical companies may now have more control over clinical trial data and more opportunities to suppress negative data through selective publication of study results than previously. In this qualitative study, the researchers explore the outsourcing of clinical trials to private-sector research clinics through observations of, and in-depth interviews with, physicians and other research staff involved in the US clinical trials industry. A qualitative study collects non-quantitative data such as how physicians feel about doing contract research and about their responsibilities to their patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2003 and September 2004, the researchers observed the interactions between PIs, trial coordinators (individuals who undertake many of the trial activities such as blood collection), and trial participants at 25 US research organizations in the southwestern US and interviewed 63 informants (including 12 PIs) about the trials they were involved in and their reasons for becoming involved. The researchers found that private-sector physicians became PIs on industry-sponsored clinical trials primarily because contract research was financially lucrative. The physicians perceived their roles in terms of business rather than science and claimed that they offered something to the pharmaceutical industry that academics do not—the ability to carry out a diverse range of trials quickly and effectively, regardless of their medical specialty. Finally, the physicians saw their primary ethical responsibility as providing accurate data to the companies that hired them and did not explicitly refer to their ethical responsibility to trial participants. One possible reason for this shift in ethical concerns is the belief among private-sector physicians that pharmaceutical companies must be making scientifically and ethically sound decisions when designing trials because of the amount of money they invest in them.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that private-sector physicians participate as PIs in pharmaceutical clinical trials primarily for financial reasons and see themselves as trial practitioners and businesspeople rather than as scientists. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be limited by the small number of PIs interviewed and by the time that has elapsed since the researchers collected their qualitative data. Moreover, these findings may not be generalizable to other regions of the US or to other countries. Nevertheless, they have potentially troubling implications for drug development. By hiring private-sector physicians who see themselves as involved more with the business than the science of contract research, pharmaceutical companies may be able to exert more control over the conduct of clinical trials and the publication of trial results than previously. Compared to the traditional investigatorinitiated system of clinical research, this new system of contract research means that clinical trials now lack the independence that is at the heart of best science practices, a development that casts doubt on the robustness of the knowledge being produced about the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001271.
The ClinicalTrials.gov website is a searchable register of federally and privately supported clinical trials in the US; it provides information about all aspects of clinical trials
The US National Institutes of Health provides information about clinical trials, including personal stories about clinical trials from patients and researchers
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information for patients about clinical trials and medical research, including personal stories about participating in clinical trials
The UK Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit also provides information for patients about clinical trials and links to information on clinical trials provided by other organizations
MedlinePlus has links to further resources on clinical trials (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001271
PMCID: PMC3404112  PMID: 22911055
7.  Public sector nurses in Swaziland: can the downturn be reversed? 
Background
The lack of human resources for health (HRH) is increasingly being recognized as a major bottleneck to scaling up antiretroviral treatment (ART), particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, whose societies and health systems are hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. In this case study of Swaziland, we describe the current HRH situation in the public sector. We identify major factors that contribute to the crisis, describe policy initiatives to tackle it and base on these a number of projections for the future. Finally, we suggest some areas for further research that may contribute to tackling the HRH crisis in Swaziland.
Methods
We visited Swaziland twice within 18 months in order to capture the HRH situation as well as the responses to it in 2004 and in 2005. Using semi-structured interviews with key informants and group interviews, we obtained qualitative and quantitative data on the HRH situation in the public and mission health sectors. We complemented this with an analysis of primary documents and a review of the available relevant reports and studies.
Results
The public health sector in Swaziland faces a serious shortage of health workers: 44% of posts for physicians, 19% of posts for nurses and 17% of nursing assistant posts were unfilled in 2004. We identified emigration and attrition due to HIV/AIDS as major factors depleting the health workforce. The annual training output of only 80 new nurses is not sufficient to compensate for these losses, and based on the situation in 2004 we estimated that the nursing workforce in the public sector would have been reduced by more than 40% by 2010. In 2005 we found that new initiatives by the Swazi government, such as the scale-up of ART, the introduction of retention measures to decrease emigration and the influx of foreign nurses could have the potential to improve the situation. A combination of such measures, together with the planned increase in the training capacity of the country's nursing schools, could even reverse the trend of a diminishing health workforce.
Conclusion
Emigration and attrition due to HIV/AIDS are undermining the health workforce in the public sector of Swaziland. Short-term and long-term measures for overcoming this HRH crisis have been initiated by the Swazi government and must be further supported and increased. Scaling up antiretroviral treatment (ART) and making it accessible and acceptable for the health workforce is of paramount importance for halting the attrition due to HIV/AIDS. To this end, we also recommend exploring ways to make ART delivery less labour-intensive. The production of nurses and nursing assistants must be urgently increased. Although the migration of HRH is a global issue requiring solutions at various levels, innovative in-country strategies for retaining staff must be further explored in order to stem as much as possible the emigration from Swaziland.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-4-13
PMCID: PMC1513248  PMID: 16737544
8.  An approach to classifying human resources constraints to attaining health-related Millennium Development Goals 
Background
For any wide-ranging effort to scale up health-related priority interventions, human resources for health (HRH) are likely to be a key to success. This study explores constraints related to human resources in the health sector for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in low-income countries.
Methods and framework
The analysis drew on information from a variety of publicly-available sources and principally on data presented in published papers in peer-reviewed journals. For classifying HRH constraints an analytical framework was used that considers constraints at five levels: individual characteristics, the health service delivery level, the health sector level, training capacities and the sociopolitical and economic context of a country.
Results and discussion
At individual level, the decision to enter, remain and serve in the health sector workforce is influenced by a series of social, economic, cultural and gender-related determinants. For example, to cover the health needs of the poorest it is necessary to employ personnel with specific social, ethnic and cultural characteristics. At health-service level, the commitment of health staff is determined by a number of organizational and management factors. The workplace environment has a great impact not only on health worker performance, but also on the comprehensiveness and efficiency of health service delivery. At health-sector level, the use of monetary and nonmonetary incentives is of crucial importance for having the accurate skill mix at the appropriate place. Scaling up of priority interventions is likely to require significant investments in initial and continuous training. Given the lead time required to produce new health workers, such investments must occur in the early phases of scaling up. At the same time coherent national HRH policies are required for giving direction on HRH development and linking HRH into health-sector reform issues, the scaling-up of priority interventions, poverty reduction strategies, and training approaches. Multisectoral collaboration and the sociopolitical and economic context of a country determine health sector workforce development and potential emigration.
Conclusions
Key determinants of success for achieving international development goals are closely related to human-resource development.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-2-11
PMCID: PMC471573  PMID: 15238166
9.  Understanding the impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados: a prospective, qualitative study of stakeholder perceptions 
Background
Medical tourism is a global health practice where patients travel internationally with the intention of receiving medical services. A range of low, middle, and high income countries are encouraging investment in the medical tourism sector, including countries in the Caribbean targeting patients in North America and Europe. While medical tourism has the potential to provide economic and employment opportunities in destination countries, there are concerns that it could encourage the movement of health workers from the public to private health sector.
Methods
We present findings from 19 semi-structured interviews with stakeholders across the public health care, private health care, government, allied business, and civil society sectors. These interviews were conducted in-person in Barbados and via phone. The interview transcripts were coded and a thematic analysis developed.
Results
Three themes were identified: 1) Stakeholder perceptions of the patterns and plans for health human resource usage by current and planned medical tourism facilities in Barbados. We found that while health human resource usage in the medical tourism sector has been limited, it is likely to grow in the future; 2) Anticipated positive impacts of medical tourism on health human resources and access to care in the public system. These benefits included improved quality control, training opportunities, and health worker retention; and 3) Anticipated negative impacts of medical tourism on health human resources and access to care in the public system. These impacts included longer wait times for care and a shift in planning priorities driven by the medical tourism sector.
Conclusions
Stakeholders interviewed who were connected to medical tourism expansion or the tourism sector took a generally positive view of the likely impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados. However, stakeholders associated with the public health system and health equity expressed concern that medical tourism may spread inequities in this country. The mechanisms by which observed negative health equity impacts in other countries will be avoided in Barbados are unclear. Continued study in Barbados and comparison with the regulatory frameworks in other countries is needed to help enhance positive and mitigate negative impacts of medical tourism on health human resources in Barbados. These findings will likely have import for other Caribbean nations investing in medical tourism and beyond.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-2
PMCID: PMC3600002  PMID: 23289812
10.  Health sector reforms and human resources for health in Uganda and Bangladesh: mechanisms of effect 
Background
Despite the expanding literature on how reforms may affect health workers and which reactions they may provoke, little research has been conducted on the mechanisms of effect through which health sector reforms either promote or discourage health worker performance. This paper seeks to trace these mechanisms and examines the contextual framework of reform objectives in Uganda and Bangladesh, and health workers' responses to the changes in their working environments by taking a 'realistic evaluation' approach.
Methods
The study findings were generated by triangulating both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis among policy technocrats, health managers and groups of health providers. Quantitative surveys were conducted with over 700 individual health workers in both Bangladesh and Uganda and supplemented with qualitative data obtained from focus group discussions and key interviews with professional cadres, health managers and key institutions involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the reforms of interest.
Results
The reforms in both countries affected the workforce through various mechanisms. In Bangladesh, the effects of the unification efforts resulted in a power struggle and general mistrust between the two former workforce tracts, family planning and health. However positive effects of the reforms were felt regarding the changes in payment schemes. Ugandan findings show how the workforce responded to a strong and rapidly implemented system of decentralisation where the power of new local authorities was influenced by resource constraints and nepotism in recruitment. On the other hand, closer ties to local authorities provided the opportunity to gain insight into the operational constraints originating from higher levels that health staff were dealing with.
Conclusion
Findings from the study suggest that a) reform planners should use the proposed dynamic responses model to help design reform objectives that encourage positive responses among health workers b) the role of context has been underestimated and it is necessary to address broader systemic problems before initiating reform processes, c) reform programs need to incorporate active implementation research systems to learn the contextual dynamics and responses as well as have inbuilt program capacity for corrective measures d) health workers are key stakeholders in any reform process and should participate at all stages and e) some effects of reforms on the health workforce operate indirectly through levels of satisfaction voiced by communities utilising the services.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-5-3
PMCID: PMC1800303  PMID: 17270042
11.  Realizing universal health coverage for maternal health services in the Republic of Guinea: the use of workforce projections to design health labor market interventions 
Background
Universal health coverage requires a health workforce that is available, accessible, and well-performing. This article presents a critical analysis of the health workforce needs for the delivery of maternal and neonatal health services in Guinea, and of feasible and relevant interventions to improve the availability, accessibility, and performance of the health workforce in the country.
Methods
A needs-based approach was used to project human resources for health (HRH) requirements. This was combined with modeling of future health sector demand and supply. A baseline scenario with disaggregated need and supply data for the targeted health professionals per region and setting (urban or rural) informed the identification of challenges related to the availability and distribution of the workforce between 2014 and 2024. Subsequently, the health labor market framework was used to identify interventions to improve the availability and distribution of the health workforce. These interventions were included in the supply side modeling, in order to create a “policy rich” scenario B which allowed for analysis of their potential impact.
Results
In the Republic of Guinea, only 44% of the nurses and 18% of the midwives required for maternal and neonatal health services are currently available. If Guinea continues on its current path without scaling up recruitment efforts, the total stock of HRH employed by the public sector will decline by 15% between 2014 and 2024, while HRH needs will grow by 22% due to demographic trends. The high density of HRH in urban areas and the high number of auxiliary nurses who are currently employed pose an opportunity for improving the availability, accessibility, and performance of the health workforce for maternal and neonatal health in Guinea, especially in rural areas.
Conclusion
Guinea will need to scale up its recruitment efforts in order to improve health workforce availability. Targeted labor market interventions need to be planned and executed over several decades to correct entrenched distortions and mismatches between workforce need, supply, and demand. The case of Guinea illustrates how to design and operationalize HRH interventions based on workforce projections to accompany and facilitate universal health coverage reforms.
Video abstract
doi:10.2147/RMHP.S46418
PMCID: PMC4243577  PMID: 25429245
human resources for health; workforce projections
12.  Measuring Access to Medicines: A Survey of Prices, Availability and Affordability in Shaanxi Province of China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70836.
Objective
To measure the prices and availability of selected medicines in Shaanxi Province after the implementation of new healthcare reform in 2009.
Methods
Data on the prices and availability of 47 medicines were collected from 50 public and 36 private sector medicine outlets in six regions of Shaanxi Province, Western China using a standardized methodology developed by the World Health Organization and Health Action International from September to October 2010. Medicine prices were compared with international reference prices to obtain a median price ratio. Affordability was measured as the number of days’ wages required for the lowest-paid unskilled government worker to purchase standard treatments for common conditions.
Findings
The mean availabilities of originator brands and lowest-priced generics were 8.9% and 26.5% in the public sector, and 18.1% and 43.6% in the private sector, respectively. The public sector procured generics and originator brands at median price ratios of 0.75 and 8.49, respectively, while patients paid 0.97 and 10.16. Final patient prices for lowest-priced generics and originator brands in the private sector were about 1.53 and 8.36 times their international retail prices, respectively. Public sector vendors applied high markups of 30.4% to generics, and 19.6% to originator brands. In the private sector, originator brands cost 390.7% more, on average, than their generic equivalents. Generic medicines were priced 17.3% higher in the private sector than the public sector. The lowest-paid government worker would need 0.1 day’s wages to purchase captopril for lowest-priced generics from private sector, while 6.6 days’ wages for losartan. For originator brands, the costs rise to 1.2 days’ wages for salbutamol inhaler and 15.6 days’ wages for omeprazole.
Conclusions
The prices, availability and affordability of medicines in China should be improved to ensure equitable access to basic medical treatments, especially for the poor. This requires multi-faceted interventions, as well as the review and refocusing of policies, regulations and educational interventions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070836
PMCID: PMC3731290  PMID: 23936471
13.  Gaps in universal health coverage in Malawi: A qualitative study in rural communities 
Background
In sub-Saharan Africa, universal health coverage (UHC) reforms have often adopted a technocratic top-down approach, with little attention being paid to the rural communities’ perspective in identifying context specific gaps to inform the design of such reforms. This approach might shape reforms that are not sufficiently responsive to local needs. Our study explored how rural communities experience and define gaps in universal health coverage in Malawi, a country which endorses free access to an Essential Health Package (EHP) as a means towards universal health coverage.
Methods
We conducted a qualitative cross-sectional study in six rural communities in Malawi. Data was collected from 12 Focus Group Discussions with community residents and triangulated with 8 key informant interviews with health care providers. All respondents were selected through stratified purposive sampling. The material was tape-recorded, fully transcribed, and coded by three independent researchers.
Results
The results showed that the EHP has created a universal sense of entitlements to free health care at the point of use. However, respondents reported uneven distribution of health facilities and poor implementation of public-private service level agreements, which have led to geographical inequities in population coverage and financial protection. Most respondents reported affordability of medical costs at private facilities and transport costs as the main barriers to universal financial protection. From the perspective of rural Malawians, gaps in financial protection are mainly triggered by supply-side access-related barriers in the public health sector such as: shortages of medicines, emergency services, shortage of health personnel and facilities, poor health workers’ attitudes, distance and transportation difficulties, and perceived poor quality of health services.
Conclusions
Moving towards UHC in Malawi, therefore, implies the introduction of appropriate interventions to fill the financial protection gaps in the private sector and the access-related gaps in the public sector and/or an effective public-private partnership that completely integrates both sectors. Current universal health coverage reforms need to address context specific gaps and be carefully crafted to avoid creating a sense of universal entitlements in principle, which may not be effectively received by beneficiaries due to contextual and operational bottlenecks.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-234
PMCID: PMC4051374  PMID: 24884788
Universal health coverage; Financial protection; Access to health care; Gaps in coverage; Geographical inequities; Community perspective; Qualitative study; Malawi
14.  Assessing the implementation of performance management of health care workers in Uganda 
Background
The performance management concept is relatively new to the Ugandan health sector. Uganda has been implementing health sector reforms for nearly two decades. The reforms included the introduction of the results-oriented management in the public sector and the decentralisation of the management of health care workers from central to local governments. This study examined the implementation of performance management of health care workers in order to propose strategies for improvement.
Methods
The study was a descriptive survey carried out in the Kumi, Mbale, Sironko and Tororo districts and utilising mixed research methodology. A self-administered questionnaire was used to collect quantitative data from the health care workers. A semi-structured interview guide was used to collect qualitative data from the health service managers. The sample for the quantitative method was selected using stratified random sampling. Purposive sampling was used to select health service managers. Quantitative data were analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (version 18.0). Qualitative data were categorised according to the themes and analysed manually.
Results
The findings show that to some extent performance management is implemented in the health sector; however, there were loopholes in its implementation. There were inadequacies in setting performance targets and performance management planning was hardly done. Although many health care workers had job descriptions, the performance indicators and standards were not clearly defined and known to all workers and managers. Additionally the schedules for performance assessments were not always adhered to. There were limited prospects for career progression, inadequate performance feedback and poor rewarding mechanisms.
Conclusions
Performance management of health care workers is inadequately done in the districts. Performance management is a key component of attempts to improve health sector outcomes. As a result of this study, suggestions to enhance health sector performance management in the districts have been put forward. The authors are optimistic that if these suggestions are implemented, the performance of health care workers is likely to improve.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-355
PMCID: PMC3849262  PMID: 24044774
Health care workers; Performance management; Performance review; Performance measurement; Performance improvement
15.  The Importance of Implementation Strategy in Scaling Up Xpert MTB/RIF for Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in the Indian Health-Care System: A Transmission Model 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001674.
Using a modelling approach, David Dowdy and colleagues investigate how different implementation strategies for Xpert MTB/RIF within the complex, fragmented healthcare system of India may affect tuberculosis control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
India has announced a goal of universal access to quality tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and treatment. A number of novel diagnostics could help meet this important goal. The rollout of one such diagnostic, Xpert MTB/RIF (Xpert) is being considered, but if Xpert is used mainly for people with HIV or high risk of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in the public sector, population-level impact may be limited.
Methods and Findings
We developed a model of TB transmission, care-seeking behavior, and diagnostic/treatment practices in India and explored the impact of six different rollout strategies. Providing Xpert to 40% of public-sector patients with HIV or prior TB treatment (similar to current national strategy) reduced TB incidence by 0.2% (95% uncertainty range [UR]: −1.4%, 1.7%) and MDR-TB incidence by 2.4% (95% UR: −5.2%, 9.1%) relative to existing practice but required 2,500 additional MDR-TB treatments and 60 four-module GeneXpert systems at maximum capacity. Further including 20% of unselected symptomatic individuals in the public sector required 700 systems and reduced incidence by 2.1% (95% UR: 0.5%, 3.9%); a similar approach involving qualified private providers (providers who have received at least some training in allopathic or non-allopathic medicine) reduced incidence by 6.0% (95% UR: 3.9%, 7.9%) with similar resource outlay, but only if high treatment success was assured. Engaging 20% of all private-sector providers (qualified and informal [providers with no formal medical training]) had the greatest impact (14.1% reduction, 95% UR: 10.6%, 16.9%), but required >2,200 systems and reliable treatment referral. Improving referrals from informal providers for smear-based diagnosis in the public sector (without Xpert rollout) had substantially greater impact (6.3% reduction) than Xpert scale-up within the public sector. These findings are subject to substantial uncertainty regarding private-sector treatment patterns, patient care-seeking behavior, symptoms, and infectiousness over time; these uncertainties should be addressed by future research.
Conclusions
The impact of new diagnostics for TB control in India depends on implementation within the complex, fragmented health-care system. Transformative strategies will require private/informal-sector engagement, adequate referral systems, improved treatment quality, and substantial resources.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Tuberculosis—a contagious bacterial disease that usually infects the lungs—is a global public health problem. Each year, about 8.7 million people develop active tuberculosis and about 1.4 million people die from the disease. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, is spread in airborne droplets when people with active disease cough or sneeze. The characteristic symptoms of tuberculosis are a persistent cough, fever, weight loss, and night sweats. Diagnostic tests for tuberculosis include sputum smear microscopy (microscopic analysis of mucus coughed up from the lungs), the growth of M. tuberculosis from sputum samples, and new molecular tests (for example, the automated Xpert MTB/RIF test) that rapidly and accurately detect M. tuberculosis in patient samples and determine its resistance to certain antibiotics. Tuberculosis can be cured by taking several antibiotics daily for at least six months, although the recent emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis is making the disease increasingly hard to treat.
Why Was This Study Done?
About 25% of all tuberculosis cases occur in India. Most people in India with underlying tuberculosis initially seek care for cough from the private health-care sector, which comprises informal providers with no formal medical training and providers with some training in mainstream or alternative medicine. Private providers rarely investigate for tuberculosis, and patients often move between providers, with long diagnostic delays. The public sector ultimately diagnoses and treats more than half of tuberculosis cases. However, the public sector relies on sputum smear microscopy, which misses half of cases, and the full diagnostic process from symptom onset to treatment initiation can take several months, during which time individuals remain infectious. Could the rollout of molecular diagnostic tests improve tuberculosis control in India? The Indian Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) is currently introducing the Xpert MTB/RIF test (Xpert) as a rapid method for drug susceptibility testing in the public sector in people at high risk of MDR tuberculosis, but is this the most effective rollout strategy? Here, the researchers use a mathematical transmission model to investigate the likely effects of the rollout of Xpert in India using different implementation strategies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers explored the impact of several rollout strategies on the incidence of tuberculosis (the number of new cases of tuberculosis in the population per year) by developing a mathematical model of tuberculosis transmission, care-seeking behavior, and diagnostic/treatment practices in India. Compared to a baseline scenario of no improved diagnostic testing, provision of Xpert to 40% of public-sector patients at high risk of MDR tuberculosis (scenario 1, the current national strategy) reduced the incidence of tuberculosis by 0.2% and the incidence of MDR tuberculosis by 2.4%. Implementation of this strategy required 2,500 additional courses of MDR tuberculosis treatment and the continuous use of 60 Xpert machines, about half the machines procured in India during 2013. A scenario that added access to Xpert for 20% of all individuals with tuberculosis symptoms seeking diagnosis in the public sector and 20% of individuals seeking care from qualified private practitioners to scenario 1 reduced the incidence of tuberculosis by 14.1% compared to the baseline scenario but required more than 2,200 Xpert machines and reliable treatment referral. Notably, a scenario that encouraged informal providers to refer suspected tuberculosis cases to the public sector for smear-based diagnosis (no Xpert rollout) had a greater impact on the incidence of tuberculosis than Xpert scale-up within the public sector.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are subject to considerable uncertainty because of the assumptions made in the transmission model about private-sector treatment patterns, patient care-seeking behavior, and infectiousness, and the quality of the data fed into the model. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the rollout of Xpert (or other new diagnostic methods with similar characteristics) could substantially reduce the burden of tuberculosis due to poor diagnosis in India. Importantly, these findings highlight how the impact of Xpert rollout relies not only on the accuracy of the test but also on the behavior of patients and providers, the level of access to new tools, and the availability of treatment following diagnosis. Thus, to ensure that new diagnostic methods have the maximum impact on tuberculosis in India, it is necessary to engage the whole private health-care sector and to provide adequate referral systems, improved treatment quality, and increased resources across all health-care sectors.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001674.
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information (in several languages) on all aspects of tuberculosis, including general information on tuberculosis diagnostics and specific information on the roll out of the Xpert MTB/RIF test; further information about WHO's endorsement of Xpert MTB/RIF is included in a Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis report; the Global Tuberculosis Report 2013 provides information about tuberculosis around the world, including in India
The Stop TB Partnership is working towards tuberculosis elimination and provides patient stories about tuberculosis (in English and Spanish); the Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (a not-for-profit organization) also provides personal stories about tuberculosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about tuberculosis and its diagnosis (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also has detailed information on all aspects of tuberculosis
TBC India provides information about tuberculosis control in India, including information on the RNTCP
The Initiative for Promoting Affordable and Quality TB Tests promotes WHO-endorsed TB tests in India
MedlinePlus has links to further information about tuberculosis (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001674
PMCID: PMC4098913  PMID: 25025235
16.  A descriptive study on health workforce performance after decentralisation of health services in Uganda 
Background
Uganda, like many developing countries, is committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. However, serious challenges prove to hamper the attainment of these goals, particularly the health related MDGs. A major challenge relates to the human resources for health. The health system in Uganda was decentralised in the 1990s. Despite the health sector reforms, the services have remained significantly deficient and performance of health workers is thought to be one of the contributing factors. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to investigate the performance of health workers after decentralisation of the health services in Uganda in order to identify and suggest possible areas for improvement.
Methods
A cross-sectional descriptive survey, using quantitative research methods was utilised. A structured self-administered questionnaire was used to collect quantitative data from 276 health workers in the districts of Kumi, Mbale, Sironko and Tororo in Eastern Uganda. The health workers included doctors, clinical officers, professional nurses and midwives. The sample was selected using stratified random sampling. The data was analysed using SPSS version 18.0 and included both univariate and bivariate analysis. The results were presented in tabular and text forms.
Results
The study revealed that even though the health workers are generally responsive to the needs of their clients, the services they provide are often not timely. The health workers take initiatives to ensure that they are available for work, although low staffing levels undermine these efforts. While the study shows that the health workers are productive, over half (50.4%) of them reported that their organisations do not have indicators to measure their individual performance. The findings indicate that the health workers are skilled and competent to perform their duties. In general, the results show that health workers are proficient, adaptive, proactive and client-oriented.
Conclusion
Although Uganda is faced with a number of challenges as regards human resources for health, the findings show that the health workers that are currently working in the health facilities are enthusiastic to perform. This may serve as a motivator for the health workers to improve their performance and that of the health sector.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-10-41
PMCID: PMC3506521  PMID: 23134673
Health workers; Health workforce; Decentralisation; Performance; Health sector reforms
17.  The decentralisation-centralisation dilemma: recruitment and distribution of health workers in remote districts of Tanzania 
Background
The implementation of decentralisation reforms in the health sector of Tanzania started in the 1980s. These reforms were intended to relinquish substantial powers and resources to districts to improve the development of the health sector. Little is known about the impact of decentralisation on recruitment and distribution of health workers at the district level. Reported difficulties in recruiting health workers to remote districts led the Government of Tanzania to partly re-instate central recruitment of health workers in 2006. The effects of this policy change are not yet documented. This study highlights the experiences and challenges associated with decentralisation and the partial re-centralisation in relation to the recruitment and distribution of health workers.
Methods
An exploratory qualitative study was conducted among informants recruited from five underserved, remote districts of mainland Tanzania. Additional informants were recruited from the central government, the NGO sector, international organisations and academia. A comparison of decentralised and the reinstated centralised systems was carried out in order to draw lessons necessary for improving recruitment, distribution and retention of health workers.
Results
The study has shown that recruitment of health workers under a decentralised arrangement has not only been characterised by complex bureaucratic procedures, but by severe delays and sometimes failure to get the required health workers. The study also revealed that recruitment of highly skilled health workers under decentralised arrangements may be both very difficult and expensive. Decentralised recruitment was perceived to be more effective in improving retention of the lower cadre health workers within the districts. In contrast, the centralised arrangement was perceived to be more effective both in recruiting qualified staff and balancing their distribution across districts, but poor in ensuring the retention of employees.
Conclusion
A combination of centralised and decentralised recruitment represents a promising hybrid form of health sector organisation in managing human resources by bringing the benefits of two worlds together. In order to ensure that the potential benefits of the two approaches are effectively integrated, careful balancing defining the local-central relationships in the management of human resources needs to be worked out.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-9
PMCID: PMC2688480  PMID: 19405958
18.  The creation of the health consumer: challenges on health sector regulation after managed care era 
Background
We utilized our previous studies analyzing the reforms affecting the health sector developed in the 1990s by financial groups to frame the strategies implemented by the pharmaceutical industry to regain market positions and to understand the challenges that regulatory agencies are confronting.
Methods
We followed an analytical approach for analyzing the process generated by the disputes between the financial groups and the pharmaceutical corporations and the challenges created to governmental regulation. We analyzed primary and secondary sources using situational and discourse analyses. We introduced the concepts of biomedicalization and biopedagogy, which allowed us to analyze how medicalization was radicalized.
Results
In the 1990s, structural adjustment policies facilitated health reforms that allowed the entrance of multinational financial capital into publicly-financed and employer-based insurance. This model operated in contraposition to the interests of the medical industrial complex, which since the middle of the 1990s had developed silent reforms to regain authority in defining the health-ill-care model. These silent reforms radicalized the medicalization. Some reforms took place through deregulatory processes, such as allowing direct-to-consumer advertisements of prescription drugs in the United States. In other countries different strategies were facilitated by the lack of regulation of other media such as the internet. The pharmaceutical industry also has had a role in changing disease definitions, rebranding others, creating new ones, and pressuring for approval of treatments to be paid by public, employer, and private plans. In recent years in Brazil there has been a substantial increase in the number of judicial claims demanding that public administrations pay for new treatments.
Conclusions
We found that the dispute for the hegemony of the health sector between financial and pharmaceutical companies has deeply transformed the sector. Patients converted into consumers are exposed to the biomedicalization of their lives helped by the biopedagogies, which using subtle mechanisms present discourses as if they are objective and created to empower consumers. The analysis of judicialization of health policies in Brazil could help to understand the complexity of the problem and to develop democratic mechanisms to improve the regulation of the health sector.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-7-2
PMCID: PMC3055814  PMID: 21349181
19.  Why do health workers in rural Tanzania prefer public sector employment? 
Background
Severe shortages of qualified health workers and geographical imbalances in the workforce in many low-income countries require the national health sector management to closely monitor and address issues related to the distribution of health workers across various types of health facilities. This article discusses health workers' preferences for workplace and their perceptions and experiences of the differences in working conditions in the public health sector versus the church-run health facilities in Tanzania. The broader aim is to generate knowledge that can add to debates on health sector management in low-income contexts.
Methods
The study has a qualitative study design to elicit in-depth information on health workers' preferences for workplace. The data comprise ten focus group discussions (FGDs) and 29 in-depth interviews (IDIs) with auxiliary staff, nursing staff, clinicians and administrators in the public health sector and in a large church-run hospital in a rural district in Tanzania. The study has an ethnographic backdrop based on earlier long-term fieldwork in Tanzania.
Results
The study found a clear preference for public sector employment. This was associated with health worker rights and access to various benefits offered to health workers in government service, particularly the favourable pension schemes providing economic security in old age. Health workers acknowledged that church-run hospitals generally were better equipped and provided better quality patient care, but these concerns tended to be outweighed by the financial assets of public sector employment. In addition to the sector specific differences, family concerns emerged as important in decisions on workplace.
Conclusions
The preference for public sector employment among health workers shown in this study seems to be associated primarily with the favourable pension scheme. The overall shortage of health workers and the distribution between health facilities is a challenge in a resource constrained health system where church-run health facilities are vital in the provision of health care in rural areas and where patients tend to prefer these services. In order to ensure equity in distribution of qualified health workers in Tanzania, a national regulation and legislation of the pension schemes is required.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-92
PMCID: PMC3364903  PMID: 22480347
Pension benefits; Working conditions; Human resources; Rural health services; Tanzania
20.  Vertical funding, non-governmental organizations, and health system strengthening: perspectives of public sector health workers in Mozambique 
Background
In the rapid scale-up of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) treatment, many donors have chosen to channel their funds to non-governmental organizations and other private partners rather than public sector systems. This approach has reinforced a private sector, vertical approach to addressing the HIV epidemic. As progress on stemming the epidemic has stalled in some areas, there is a growing recognition that overall health system strengthening, including health workforce development, will be essential to meet AIDS treatment goals. Mozambique has experienced an especially dramatic increase in disease-specific support over the last eight years. We explored the perspectives and experiences of key Mozambican public sector health managers who coordinate, implement, and manage the myriad donor-driven projects and agencies.
Methods
Over a four-month period, we conducted 41 individual qualitative interviews with key Ministry workers at three levels in the Mozambique national health system, using open-ended semi-structured interview guides. We also reviewed planning documents.
Results
All respondents emphasized the value and importance of international aid and vertical funding to the health sector and each highlighted program successes that were made possible by recent increased aid flows. However, three serious concerns emerged: 1) difficulties coordinating external resources and challenges to local control over the use of resources channeled to international private organizations; 2) inequalities created within the health system produced by vertical funds channeled to specific services while other sectors remain under-resourced; and 3) the exodus of health workers from the public sector health system provoked by large disparities in salaries and work.
Conclusions
The Ministry of Health attempted to coordinate aid by implementing a “sector-wide approach” to bring the partners together in setting priorities, harmonizing planning, and coordinating support. Only 14% of overall health sector funding was channeled through this coordinating process by 2008, however. The vertical approach starved the Ministry of support for its administrative functions. The exodus of health workers from the public sector to international and private organizations emerged as the issue of greatest concern to the managers and health workers interviewed. Few studies have addressed the growing phenomenon of “internal brain drain” in Africa which proved to be of greater concern to Mozambique’s health managers.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-11-26
PMCID: PMC3691708  PMID: 23768178
Brain drain; Africa; Health sector; Aid effectiveness; Vertical disease programming; HIV/AIDS; Ministry of health; Non-governmental organizations; PEPFAR
21.  Essential health information available for India in the public domain on the internet 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:208.
Background
Health information and statistics are important for planning, monitoring and improvement of the health of populations. However, the availability of health information in developing countries is often inadequate. This paper reviews the essential health information available readily in the public domain on the internet for India in order to broadly assess its adequacy and inform further development.
Methods
The essential sources of health-related information for India were reviewed. An extensive search of relevant websites and the PubMed literature database was conducted to identify the sources. For each essential source the periodicity of the data collection, the information it generates, the geographical level at which information is reported, and its availability in the public domain on the internet were assessed.
Results
The available information related to non-communicable diseases and injuries was poor. This is a significant gap as India is undergoing an epidemiological transition with these diseases/conditions accounting for a major proportion of disease burden. Information on infrastructure and human resources was primarily available for the public health sector, with almost none for the private sector which provides a large proportion of the health services in India. Majority of the information was available at the state level with almost negligible at the district level, which is a limitation for the practical implementation of health programmes at the district level under the proposed decentralisation of health services in India.
Conclusion
This broad review of the essential health information readily available in the public domain on the internet for India highlights that the significant gaps related to non-communicable diseases and injuries, private health sector and district level information need to be addressed to further develop an effective health information system in India.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-208
PMCID: PMC2719635  PMID: 19563626
22.  Health worker densities and immunization coverage in Turkey: a panel data analysis 
Background
Increased immunization coverage is an important step towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goal of reducing childhood mortality. Recent cross-sectional and cross-national research has indicated that physician, nurse and midwife densities may positively influence immunization coverage. However, little is known about relationships between densities of human resources for health (HRH) and vaccination coverage within developing countries and over time. The present study examines HRH densities and coverage of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Turkey during the period 2000 to 2006.
Methods
The study is based on provincial-level data on HRH densities, vaccination coverage and provincial socioeconomic and demographic characteristics published by the Turkish government. Panel data regression methodologies (random and fixed effects models) are used to analyse the data.
Results
Three main findings emerge: (1) combined physician, nurse/midwife and health officer density is significantly associated with vaccination rates – independent of provincial female illiteracy, GDP per capita and land area – although the association was initially positive and turned negative over time; (2) HRH-vaccination rate relationships differ by cadre of health worker, with physician and health officers exhibiting significant relationships that mirror those for aggregate density, while nurse/midwife densities are not consistently significant; (3) HRH densities bear stronger relationships with vaccination coverage among more rural provinces, compared to those with higher population densities.
Conclusion
We find evidence of relationships between HRH densities and vaccination rates even at Turkey's relatively elevated levels of each. At the same time, variations in results between different empirical models suggest that this relationship is complex, affected by other factors that occurred during the study period, and warrants further investigation to verify our findings. We hypothesize that the introduction of certain health-sector policies governing terms of HRH employment affected incentives to provide vaccinations and therefore relationships between HRH densities and vaccination rates. National-level changes experienced during the study period – such as a severe financial crisis – may also have affected and/or been associated with the HRH-vaccination rate link. While our findings therefore suggest that the size of a health workforce may be associated with service provision at a relatively elevated level of development, they also indicate that focusing on per capita levels of HRH may be of limited value in understanding performance in service provision. In both Turkey and elsewhere, further investigation is needed to corroborate our results as well as gain deeper understanding into relationships between health worker densities and service provision.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-6-29
PMCID: PMC2631449  PMID: 19102741
23.  Human resources for health at the district level in Indonesia: the smoke and mirrors of decentralization 
Background
In 2001 Indonesia embarked on a rapid decentralization of government finances and functions to district governments. One of the results is that government has less information about its most valuable resource, the people who provide the services. The objective of the work reported here is to determine the stock of human resources for health in 15 districts, their service status and primary place of work. It also assesses the effect of decentralization on management of human resources and the implications for the future.
Methods
We enumerated all health care providers (doctors, nurses and midwives), including information on their employment status and primary place of work, in each of 15 districts in Java. Data were collected by three teams, one for each province.
Results
Provider density (number of doctors, nurses and midwives/1000 population) was low by international standards – 11 out of 15 districts had provider densities less than 1.0. Approximately half of all three professional groups were permanent public servants. Contractual employment was also important for both nurses and midwives. The private sector as the primary source of employment is most important for doctors (37% overall) and increasingly so for midwives (10%). For those employed in the public sector, two-thirds of doctors and nurses work in health centres, while most midwives are located at village-level health facilities.
Conclusion
In the health system established after Independence, the facilities established were staffed through a period of obligatory service for all new graduates in medicine, nursing and midwifery. The last elements of that staffing system ended in 2007 and the government has not been able to replace it. The private sector is expanding and, despite the fact that it will be of increasing importance in the coming decades, government information about providers in private practice is decreasing. Despite the promise of decentralization to increase sectoral "decision space" at the district level, the central government now has control over essentially all public sector health staff at the district level, marking a return to the situation of 20 years ago. At the same time, Indonesia has changed dramatically. The challenge now is to envision a new health system that takes account of these changes. Envisioning the new system is a crucial first step for development of a human resources policy which, in turn, will require more information about health care providers, public and private, and increased capacity for human resource planning.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-7-6
PMCID: PMC2662783  PMID: 19192269
24.  Strategic management of the health workforce in developing countries: what have we learned? 
The study of the health workforce has gained in prominence in recent years, as the dynamic interconnections between human resource issues and health system effectiveness have come into sharper focus. This paper reviews lessons relating to strategic management challenges emerging from the growing literature in this area. Workforce issues are strategic: they affect overall system performance as well as the feasibility and sustainability of health reforms. Viewing workforce issues strategically forces health authorities to confront the yawning gaps between policy and implementation in many developing countries.
Lessons emerge in four areas. One concerns imbalances in workforce structure, whether from a functional specialization, geographical or facility lens. These imbalances pose a strategic challenge in that authorities must attempt to steer workforce distribution over time using a limited range of policy tools. A second group of lessons concerns the difficulties of central-level steering of the health workforce, often critically weak due to the lack of proper information systems and the complexities of public sector decentralization and service commercialization trends affecting the grassroots.
A third cluster examines worker capacity and motivation, often shaped in developing countries as much by the informal norms and incentives as by formal attempts to support workers or to hold them accountable. Finally, a range of reforms centering on service contracting and improvements to human resource management are emerging. Since these have as a necessary (but not sufficient) condition some flexibility in personnel practices, recent trends towards the sharing of such functions with local authorities are promising.
The paper identifies a number of current lines of productive research, focusing on the relationship between health policy reforms and the local institutional environments in which the workforce, both public and private, is deployed.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-5-4
PMCID: PMC1808474  PMID: 17319973
25.  Job satisfaction and motivation of health workers in public and private sectors: cross-sectional analysis from two Indian states 
Background
Ensuring health worker job satisfaction and motivation are important if health workers are to be retained and effectively deliver health services in many developing countries, whether they work in the public or private sector. The objectives of the paper are to identify important aspects of health worker satisfaction and motivation in two Indian states working in public and private sectors.
Methods
Cross-sectional surveys of 1916 public and private sector health workers in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, India, were conducted using a standardized instrument to identify health workers' satisfaction with key work factors related to motivation. Ratings were compared with how important health workers consider these factors.
Results
There was high variability in the ratings for areas of satisfaction and motivation across the different practice settings, but there were also commonalities. Four groups of factors were identified, with those relating to job content and work environment viewed as the most important characteristics of the ideal job, and rated higher than a good income. In both states, public sector health workers rated "good employment benefits" as significantly more important than private sector workers, as well as a "superior who recognizes work". There were large differences in whether these factors were considered present on the job, particularly between public and private sector health workers in Uttar Pradesh, where the public sector fared consistently lower (P < 0.01). Discordance between what motivational factors health workers considered important and their perceptions of actual presence of these factors were also highest in Uttar Pradesh in the public sector, where all 17 items had greater discordance for public sector workers than for workers in the private sector (P < 0.001).
Conclusion
There are common areas of health worker motivation that should be considered by managers and policy makers, particularly the importance of non-financial motivators such as working environment and skill development opportunities. But managers also need to focus on the importance of locally assessing conditions and managing incentives to ensure health workers are motivated in their work.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-8-27
PMCID: PMC3003185  PMID: 21108833

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