Nigerian Human Resources for Health Conference

The Third Annual National Human Resources for Health Conference took place in Abuja, Nigeria, 18th-20th July 2017.

The Women for Health (W4H) programme, led by HPI, co-hosted the conference with the Federal Ministry of Health to implement the theme of “Strengthening Human Resources for Health Towards Revitalisation of a Functional Primary Health Care System in Nigeria”.

The goal of the conference was to address the human resources challenges- including the availability and retention of adequate and skilled health resources professionals- particularly in relation to the underserved population.

Some abstracts presented include; funding for Human Resources for Health (HRH), providing training for frontline healthcare workers, sustainability in HRH, evidence-based strategic planning for PHC development, implication of the National Health Act, challenges associated with health workforce production, equitable distribution and utilization of healthcare workers and effective performance management for PHC workers.

At the conference, participants deliberated the causes of the challenges apparent in HRH, some of which include; low production of health workers, weak government standards, limited funding for HRH, high cost of health infrastructure including the cost of accreditation in Health Training Institutes and the absence of regulations to ensure equity in the distribution of health workers, especially in Northern Nigeria.

Also, within the context of regional inequality, there was also the question of gender equality. Dr. Fatima Adamu, National Programme Manager for Women for Health (W4H) stated the importance of training female health workers, especially in Northern Nigeria, to give women the opportunity to receive more comprehensive healthcare. The presentations by W4H included;

  • HRH Financing: Moving from Traditional approach to exploring more funding opportunities in Katsina and Kano presented by Nasiru Sa’adu Fakai
  • Foundation Year Program; an innovative approach to addressing inequality in the production of frontline workforce presented by Zainab Abdul Moukarim

To address the challenges, participants recommended various solutions including; partnering with different organizations to deliver effective solutions, harmonizing policies across all states, promoting innovation in fundraising for health, reform in the funding for HRH, safeguarding health training institutes, especially those in volatile areas and creating a platform to collect and collate human resources data on a federal level.

The Special Guest Speaker for the event, Honorable Minister for State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehinare, called for support in data collection and collation to help health workers create a more efficient system. At the end of the conference, participants requested a call-to-action by the government which included;

  • Addressing the issue of task shifting and task sharing especially in relation to training for staff and a mechanism for supervision.
  • Regulatory bodies should re-evaluate laws to align with current needs in the health sector.
  • The government should create a reward system and take into consideration the gross disparities in the availability of healthcare workers, especially in Northern Nigeria.
  • Call for the re-assessment of the NHAct to align with current needs of health workers.
  • Rehabilitation of health training institutions to enhance the quality of healthcare workers.

System sustainability was at the heart of every discussion. Although, participants agreed that funds and skilled healthcare professionals are required, the need for sustainability did not go unnoticed. Therefore, to promote a culture of sustainability, participants urged the government to create adequate reforms in HRH and establish effective performance management procedures for PHC workers

As part of the body of evidence and documented learning shared at the conference, W4H produced a three-part, micro-documentary, Seeds of Change, showcasing the key approaches and impacts of the programme in changing attitudes to educating young women and girls, and boosting the number of women enrolled in professional health training and the retention of female health workers.

Another documentary, Living the Dream to Become a Midwife explores the impact of W4H on the lives of young rural women in northern Nigeria.

In addition to this, the programme has produced two How to Guides; How to Guide 1 is on empowering young women from rural areas to become health workers and the How to guide 2 focuses on accrediting health training institutions. The Journey So Far report and the W4H programme overview outline the progress of the programme to date.