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      Donor financing of human resources for health, 1990–2016: an examination of trends, sources of funds, and recipients


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          Skilled health professionals are a critical component of the effective delivery of lifesaving health interventions. The inadequate number of skilled health professionals in many low- and middle-income countries has been identified as a constraint to the achievement of improvements in health outcomes. In response, more international development agencies have provided funds toward broader health system initiatives and health workforce activities in particular. Nonetheless, estimates of the amount of donor funding targeting investments in human resources for health activities are few.


          We utilize data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s annual database on development assistance for health. The estimates in the database are generated using data from publicly available databases that track development assistance. To estimate development assistance for human resources for health, we use keywords to identify projects targeted toward human resource processes. We track development for human resources for health from 1990 through 2016. We categorize the types of human-resources-related projects funded and examine the availability of human resources, development assistance for human resources for health, and disease burden.


          We find that the amount of donor funding directed toward human resources for health has increased from only $34 million in 1990 to $1.5 billion in 2016 (in 2017 US dollars). Overall, $18.5 billion in 2017 US dollars was targeted toward human resources for health between 1990 and 2016. The primary regions receiving these resources were sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania. The main donor countries were the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. The main agencies through which these resources were disbursed are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), US bilateral agencies, and UN agencies.


          In 2016, less than 4% of development assistance for health could be tied to funding for human resources. Given the central role skilled health workers play in health systems, in order to make credible progress in reducing disparities in health and attaining the goal of universal health coverage for all by 2030, it may be appropriate for more resources to be mobilized in order to guarantee adequate manpower to deliver key health interventions.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1186/s12992-018-0416-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Inequities in the Global Health Workforce: The Greatest Impediment to Health in Sub-Saharan Africa

          Health systems played a key role in the dramatic rise in global life expectancy that occurred during the 20th century, and have continued to contribute enormously to the improvement of the health of most of the world’s population. The health workforce is the backbone of each health system, the lubricant that facilitates the smooth implementation of health action for sustainable socio-economic development. It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the density of the health workforce is directly correlated with positive health outcomes. In other words, health workers save lives and improve health. About 59 million people make up the health workforce of paid full-time health workers world-wide. However, enormous gaps remain between the potential of health systems and their actual performance, and there are far too many inequities in the distribution of health workers between countries and within countries. The Americas (mainly USA and Canada) are home to 14% of the world’s population, bear only 10% of the world’s disease burden, have 37% of the global health workforce and spend about 50% of the world’s financial resources for health. Conversely, sub-Saharan Africa, with about 11% of the world’s population bears over 24% of the global disease burden, is home to only 3% of the global health workforce, and spends less than 1% of the world’s financial resources on health. In most developing countries, the health workforce is concentrated in the major towns and cities, while rural areas can only boast of about 23% and 38% of the country’s doctors and nurses respectively. The imbalances exist not only in the total numbers and geographical distribution of health workers, but also in the skills mix of available health workers. WHO estimates that 57 countries world wide have a critical shortage of health workers, equivalent to a global deficit of about 2.4 million doctors, nurses and midwives. Thirty six of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. They would need to increase their health workforce by about 140% to achieve enough coverage for essential health interventions to make a positive difference in the health and life expectancy of their populations. The extent causes and consequences of the health workforce crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the various factors that influence and are related to it are well known and described. Although there is no “magic bullet” solution to the problem, there are several documented, tested and tried best practices from various countries. The global health workforce crisis can be tackled if there is global responsibility, political will, financial commitment and public-private partnership for country-led and country-specific interventions that seek solutions beyond the health sector. Only when enough health workers can be trained, sustained and retained in sub-Saharan African countries will there be meaningful socio-economic development and the faintest hope of attaining the Millennium Development Goals in the sub-continent.
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            Financing of global health: tracking development assistance for health from 1990 to 2007.

            The need for timely and reliable information about global health resource flows to low-income and middle-income countries is widely recognised. We aimed to provide a comprehensive assessment of development assistance for health (DAH) from 1990 to 2007. We defined DAH as all flows for health from public and private institutions whose primary purpose is to provide development assistance to low-income and middle-income countries. We used several data sources to measure the yearly volume of DAH in 2007 US$, and created an integrated project database to examine the composition of this assistance by recipient country. DAH grew from $5.6 billion in 1990 to $21.8 billion in 2007. The proportion of DAH channelled via UN agencies and development banks decreased from 1990 to 2007, whereas the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and non-governmental organisations became the conduit for an increasing share of DAH. DAH has risen sharply since 2002 because of increases in public funding, especially from the USA, and on the private side, from increased philanthropic donations and in-kind contributions from corporate donors. Of the $13.8 [corrected] billion DAH in 2007 for which project-level information was available, $4.9 [corrected] billion was for HIV/AIDS, compared with $0.6 [corrected] billion for tuberculosis, $0.7 [corrected] billion for malaria, and $0.9 billion for health-sector support. Total DAH received by low-income and middle-income countries was positively correlated with burden of disease, whereas per head DAH was negatively correlated with per head gross domestic product. This study documents the substantial rise of resources for global health in recent years. Although the rise in DAH has resulted in increased funds for HIV/AIDS, other areas of global health have also expanded. The influx of funds has been accompanied by major changes in the institutional landscape of global health, with global health initiatives such as the Global Fund and GAVI having a central role in mobilising and channelling global health funds. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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              The effects of global health initiatives on country health systems: a review of the evidence from HIV/AIDS control.

              This paper reviews country-level evidence about the impact of global health initiatives (GHIs), which have had profound effects on recipient country health systems in middle and low income countries. We have selected three initiatives that account for an estimated two-thirds of external funding earmarked for HIV/AIDS control in resource-poor countries: the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the World Bank Multi-country AIDS Program (MAP) and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This paper draws on 31 original country-specific and cross-country articles and reports, based on country-level fieldwork conducted between 2002 and 2007. Positive effects have included a rapid scale-up in HIV/AIDS service delivery, greater stakeholder participation, and channelling of funds to non-governmental stakeholders, mainly NGOs and faith-based bodies. Negative effects include distortion of recipient countries' national policies, notably through distracting governments from coordinated efforts to strengthen health systems and re-verticalization of planning, management and monitoring and evaluation systems. Sub-national and district studies are needed to assess the degree to which GHIs are learning to align with and build the capacities of countries to respond to HIV/AIDS; whether marginalized populations access and benefit from GHI-funded programmes; and about the cost-effectiveness and long-term sustainability of the HIV and AIDS programmes funded by the GHIs. Three multi-country sets of evaluations, which will be reporting in 2009, will answer some of these questions.

                Author and article information

                Global Health
                Global Health
                Globalization and Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                17 October 2018
                17 October 2018
                : 14
                ISNI 0000 0004 0448 3644, GRID grid.458416.a, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, ; 2301 Fifth Ave., Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98121 USA
                © The Author(s). 2018

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000865, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Health & Social care
                human resources for health,development assistance,donor funding
                Health & Social care
                human resources for health, development assistance, donor funding


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