A Head Start on Measuring Health Workforce Progress

Lindsay BonannoWhile in a small clinic deep in a rural village, I study a register and see a lot of blank boxes that should contain data. I ask the data clerk why there is so much empty space. She shrugs and meekly explains that she didn’t know how to fill out the specific information. As I talk her through the indicators, I cannot help but think of the need for accessible resources to help people like the data clerk understand what to measure and how. 

Sometimes monitoring and evaluating a program can be concrete. In a service delivery project, for instance, the metrics are usually concrete (did the person receive the medication or not?). Indicators for measuring progress in human resources for health (HRH), however, can seem pretty complex. For example, how do you wrap your mind around increased leadership accountability? Metrics for HRH aren’t as well-known or haven’t received the same level of consensus as have those for other public health areas.

But just as we need to measure progress in service delivery, so too must we find a way to define and show our gains in health workforce strengthening, both for assessing the work and for demonstrating accountability to our donors and stakeholders.

As my colleague Sara Pacqué-Margolis aptly said, “You don’t pay attention to activities that you don’t monitor.” It is imperative that all activities are monitored. However, many of us may not be aware of what metrics are recommended for monitoring and evaluating progress related to the health workforce. That’s where the new HRH Indicator Compendium is so helpful. Developed by CapacityPlus, it’s an online resource for practitioners who would like to monitor HRH activities.

HRH Indicator CompendiumThe authors reviewed published indicators on HRH and selected high-quality indicators to compile into a single resource in an interactive format. Users can select the indicators that are most relevant and comprehensible for their purposes. For those of us who are less familiar with metrics for HRH, this resource will be a real time-saver.

In our field, a lot of resources are spent on developing indicators, but too often they can end up sitting in binders on a shelf. What I like about this compendium is that it’s easy to use and will be regularly updated. It is also available as a PDF, to ensure accessibility for field-based staff that may have problems with Internet connectivity.

Having spent time working with metrics and indicator measurement in the field, I can vouch for how difficult it can be to engage in this work, and how important it is to have resources that are easily accessible. I have frequently thought, “If all of this information was just in one place, my work would go much more smoothly.” The HRH Indicator Compendium will not overnight transform our ability to communicate the impact of investments in human resources for health. But it will make it easier to build capacity for monitoring the impact of health workforce initiatives.

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