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Bull World Health Organ. 2010 Jun;88(6):435-43. doi: 10.2471/BLT.09.066290.

Priorities for research into human resources for health in low- and middle-income countries.

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Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, World Health Organization, 20 avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland.



To identify the human resources for health (HRH) policy concerns and research priorities of key stakeholders in low- and middle-income countries; to assess the extent to which existing HRH research addresses these concerns and priorities; and to develop a prioritized list of core research questions requiring immediate attention to facilitate policy development and implementation.


The study involved interviews with key informants, including health policy-makers, researchers and community and civil society representatives, in 24 low- and middle-income countries in four regions, a literature search for relevant reviews of research completed to date, and the assessment of interview and literature search findings at a consultative multinational workshop, during which research questions were prioritized.


Twenty-one research questions emerged from the key informant interviews, many of which had received little or no attention in the reviewed literature. The questions ranked as most important at the consultative workshop were: (i) To what extent do incentives work in attracting and retaining qualified health workers in underserviced areas? (ii) What is the impact of dual practice and multiple employment? and (iii) How can incentives be used to optimize efficiency and the quality of health care?


There was a clear consensus about the type of HRH policy problems faced by different countries and the nature of evidence needed to tackle them. Coordinated action to support and implement research into the highest priority questions identified here could have a major impact on health worker policies and, ultimately, on the health of the poor.

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