Bangladesh health workforce strategy 2015: On the Move

Photo Caption: National consultation on ‘Finalizing Bangladesh Health Workforce Strategy’ held on 24 May 2015

The performance of a health system is immensely dependent upon how its workforce is developed, planned and utilized. In Bangladesh, the health workforce includes all personnel, staff and individuals directly involved in health service delivery, family planning, nursing, drug administration, nutrition, alternative medicine, occupational medicine or allied fields both in the public and private sector. A well-articulated health workforce strategy supports organizations to achieve their vision, mission, goals and objectives. With the technical and financial support from WHO, the unit of Human Resource Management [HRM Unit, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOH&FW)] has drafted the Bangladesh Health Workforce Strategy 2015 which is now on the move to be endorsed and approved by the National Steering Committee for Implementation.

Bangladesh’s health workforce (HWF) includes not only physicians, nurses and midwives, but also laboratory technicians, public health professionals, community health workers, pharmacists, and other support workers. Their main function is to deliver preventive, promotive and curative health services. The 2011 National Health Policy suggested the formulation of a HWF strategy that mitigates the current skill mix imbalance and the lack of incentives in order to address shortages and uneven distribution of health workers.

In late 2014, in preparation of the HWF strategy, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW) sought perspectives from a range of stakeholders. With support from WHO, a technical working group was formed to develop the strategy. The drafts of earlier HWF documents and related policies were reviewed and in January 2015, the Human Resources Management (HRM) Unit gathered all accessible data and conducted a detailed situation analysis.

Based on the key findings of this situation analysis and on the country’s commitments towards universal health coverage (UHC), the Bangladesh HWF Strategy 2015 addresses five thematic areas: HWF planning; HWF development; HWF distribution, retention and professional engagement; Management of high performance standards; and HWF information systems. Each thematic area contains general and specific descriptions of the desired nature of the projected HWF in 2030; the actions needed to achieve the objectives; and the priority actions for the short-term (2015-17) and their main agents. Broader descriptions exist for the medium- (2017-21) and long-term (2021-30) interventions.

The vision of the strategy is “attainment of quality health and wellbeing for the people of Bangladesh” and its mission is to achieve a “skilled, motivated and responsive health workforce in adequate number and available equitably across the country.” A total of five strategic objectives will help to fulfil the vision and mission and to contribute to the attainment of health-related Sustainable Development Goal 3 and UHC:

• Ensure availability of competent and adequate number of workforces equitably;

• Develop and maintain quality health workforce at all level;

• Recruit, deploy and retain health workforce equitably;

• Promote and maintain high standards in health workforce performance; and

• Establish and use health workforce information system (HWIS) to support health workforce planning and management.

The strategy focuses on the entire national HWF. However, due to a lack of available HWF data and information especially from the private, NGO, and informal sub-sectors, it initially concentrates on the public sector, namely the workforce under the MOHFW. The strategy is formulated for five years (with long term interventions up to 2030), and will be reviewed and updated as progress is made in the priority areas and new priorities for action emerge.