Supporting the Human in Human Resources: Reimagining the Dialogue on Human Resources for Maternal and Newborn Health

By Kate Mitchell, Katie Millar, Shalmali Radha Karnad, Amie Newman, and Rachel Hassinger

This post is the first in a new blog series convened by the Maternal Health Task Force and Jacaranda Health focused on recognizing and supporting the ‘human’ in human resources for maternal and newborn health: Who are the humans that make up the global maternal health work force? What are their challenges and dreams? How can we better support them to provide high quality maternal health care to the women and newborns who need it most? Check back here every Tuesday and Thursday now through August 7th, 2014 for answers to these questions.

While recent estimates show that maternal mortality ratios are falling globally, many parts of the world still face significant challenges in improving maternal and newborn health, and in reducing the number of deaths from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Striking disparities in access to, and quality of, maternal health services exist within and between regions and countries. These persistent challenges and disparities are the reasons why theWHA recently endorsed the Every Newborn Action Plan coupled with Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality.

Kathy Kiboi, one of Jacaranda's wonderful nurses

Kathy Kiboi, one of Jacaranda’s wonderful nurses

Undoubtedly, health workers are central to any approach to improving access to, and quality of, maternal and newborn health services and, ultimately, maternal and newborn health. In fact, the new Lancet Series, Midwifery, identifies midwives as the key link to ending preventable maternal and neonatal mortality. It is for this reason that the Maternal Health Task Force and Jacaranda Health are teaming up on a blog series, titled “Supporting the Human in Human Resources.” Through a series of posts, welcomed from a variety of contributors, we hope to reimagine the human resources conversation and to facilitate a global dialogue about inventive efforts to support and nurture the global maternal health work force—with special attention to human resource approaches for addressing inequities in maternal and newborn health.

Global discussions of human resources for health often center on boosting the numbers of health workers in a given setting, using health care provider-to-population ratios as a key indicator. While ratios are important, of equal (if not greater) importance and impact are the quality, sustainability, respect, and care of the workforce. Human resources for health are made up of individuals with personal and professional needs, challenges, dreams and aspirations. In recent years, it has been encouraging to see that a number of health care organizations around the world have developed programs to address human resource challenges in new and creative ways—developing exciting and promising approaches to recognize and support the human in human resources.

These organizations are nurturing health professionals to become “game changers”—or influencers of sustainable, positive change—in healthcare delivery by offering opportunities for professional development, as well as leadership and management training. In addition, they are recognizing and addressing the real-life challenges of health workers living and working in resource-constrained and/or remote environments. These efforts share the long-term goal of supporting a healthier, happier health work force that is equipped to provide higher quality, respectful and client-centered care, hopefully resulting in improvements in the health of women and newborns around the world.

Our goal for this blog series is to create a platform for sharing innovative interventions, lessons-learned and opportunities for collaboration across various organizations and communities. How can we best support and nurture strong human resources for maternal health in order to contribute to saving the lives of women and newborns? It is questions like this (and others below) that we hope you’ll help us answer through this blog series!

Are you interested in contributing to the series? For more information on potential topics and contributing to the series, head to the Maternal Health Task Force blog

Posts in this series will be shared on the MHTF blog and the Jacaranda Health blog —and may be cross-posted on other leading global health and development blogs.

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