While community service has been an effective strategy for recruiting professional staff to rural and underserved health facilities, among the key messages emanating from the 21st edition of the South African Health Review (SAHR) is that complementary longer-term human resource interventions are required in order to retain them.

Launched today by the Health Systems Trust (HST) to coincide with the anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Health Coverage Day, the latest SAHR focuses on human resources for health and universal health coverage

“One of the critical factors impacting on South Africa’s successful journey towards universal health coverage,” Asnie Padarath, SAHR managing editor stressed at the launch, “will depend on ensuring that we have the right mix of skills and distribution of health care workers and that there is congruence between training output and the absorptive capacity of the health system.” 

In similar vein, said Dr Themba Moeti, CEO of HST, noted: “This year’s edition of the SAHR is particularly timely, with its focus on human resources for health and related innovative and practical solutions to support sustainable progress towards achieving universal health coverage; essential for future health service success.”

Critical areas reviewed include the fact that while around R12 billion is spent annually on health sciences education, the training of healthcare workers in South Africa is an economic investment which can have recurring benefits. Particularly pertinent in this regard, as already pointed out, is that although community service might have been effective for recruiting healthcare professionals to serve rural and underserved health facilities, complementary longer-term human resource interventions are required in order to retain them. 

Commenting on her involvement in the SAHR 2018, guest editor Prof Laetitia Rispel, Head of the Faculty of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand, added:  “The common thread that runs through the publication is the importance of quality and accurate information; strong government stewardship and leadership; and public accountability to improve population health, strengthen institutional capacity and to enforce enabling legislation.”

In addition to offering perspectives on human resources for health and universal health coverage, the SAHR also provides commentary on:

·         the impact of the environment on our food choices;

·         how we contextualise the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project within a broader mental health context in South Africa; 

·         how South Africa’s national health research system measures up against the rest of Africa and the world;

·         measuring our level of progress in catering for the most vulnerable populations; and

·         the specific challenge of skills attraction and retention in rural areas. 

The South African Health Review 2018 can now be accessed at: http://www.hst.org.za/publications/Pages/SAHR2018.aspx

SOURCE: Communications Department, Health Systems Trust