WHO Global Recommendations for the Retention of Health Workers

Increasing Access to Health Workers in Remote and Rural Areas through Improved Retention

July 2010

"These new guidelines provide countries with instruments to improve health workforce distribution and strengthen health services, thus contributing to more equitable access to health care, and boosting prospects for improving maternal and child health and combating diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria."
- Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General

The WHO resolutions on migration (WHA57.19) and rapid scaling up of health workers (WHA59.23) request Member States to put in place mechanisms which aim to improve the retention of health workers. Very recently, the Kampala Declaration called on governments to "assure adequate incentives and an enabling and safe working environment for effective retention and equitable distribution of the health workforce".

It is against this background that WHO has embarked upon a process to develop evidence-based recommendations which will advise countries on addressing the critical issues of retention and equitable distribution of health workers.

The WHO global recommendations were informed by a comprehensive research and analysis of evidence on existing interventions, by a series of country case studies and commissioned literature reviews, and by extensive consultations with experts and stakeholders regarding the effectiveness, implementation and evaluation of strategies to improve retention.

Global Policy Recommendations

Globally, approximately one half of the population lives in rural areas, but less than 38% of the nurses and less than 25% of the physicians work there. While getting and keeping health workers in rural and remote areas is a challenge for all countries, the situation is worse in the 57 countries that have an absolute shortage of health workers.

After a year-long consultative effort, this document proposes sixteen evidence-based recommendations on how to improve the recruitment and retention of health workers in underserved areas. It also offers a guide for policy makers to choose the most appropriate interventions, and to implement, monitor and evaluate their impact over time.

Source: World Health Organization

(Dr. Raymond Pong, CRaNHR Senior Research Fellow, was a member of the WHO committee that helped develop the Global Recommendations on Increasing Access to Health Workers in Remote and Rural Areas through Improved Retention.)