Addressing Human Resources Constraints in Public Health Supply Chains

Amanda PuckettAt the recent Critical Issues Series: Strengthening Human Resources for Supply Chain Management of Health Commodities event, IntraHealth International staff Uche Ekenna presented CapacityPlus’s new Life Cycle Approach to professionalizing under-recognized cadres.

Ekenna delivered key messages on workforce development, workforce effectiveness, and policy and planning to specific supply chain functions. His panel focused on the professionalization of under-recognized cadres—i.e., supply chain management professionals—and how the Life Cycle Approach can systematically address all crucial steps in the cadre professionalization process.

Hosted by the USAID DELIVER Project, this event featured presentations by human resources for health (HRH) and health commodities panelists, and offered experts a forum to discuss and identify future areas for building strong collaborations, sharing lessons learned, and identifying strategies to address human resources constraints affecting the distribution of health commodities to clients.

HRH issues set the tone
Setting the tone for the day, Dr. Susan K. Brems, senior deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, delivered the keynote address on human resources constraints that have a negative impact on supply chain performance.

“Dr. Brems challenged the participants [to make] optimal use of scanty resources and [said] how programs have to make technical, financial, and cultural sense,” said Ekenna.

No health subsector is immune
The day’s three-panel series consisted of discussions on optimizing policies and plans, strengthening workforce development, and increasing workforce effectiveness—themes that are part of CapacityPlus. What the speakers made apparent was that no subsector of the global health workforce is immune to HRH constraints and challenges. CapacityPlus is already working with other under-recognized health professionals including health system managers, health information and communications technology professionals, community health workers, and social workers.

In HRH, we often hear the phrases systems strengthening, capacity-building, policy and planning, and governance. While speakers certainly addressed these important issues, it was refreshing to hear some additional keywords.

  • Integration: Reflecting on the rapid population growth and human resources shortages in sub-Saharan Africa, David Sarley, JSI’s director of Task Order One, called for global health programs to integrate and work together if we want to achieve goals. He urged participants to use CapacityPlus’s HR framework throughout the day and find ways to use it in their work.
  • Motivation: Joseph Dwyer, Management Sciences for Health, called for program managers in supply chain management to create pathways for health workers to achieve goals. He married the ideas of motivation and individual job growth, and called for “activity mindsets” as a way of achieving results. These pathways are especially important for subsectors in HRH like supply chain management where there are no professional bodies championing their work.
  • Mentoring: JSI’s Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo called for mentoring programs for managers, since classroom training is not enough; mentoring leads to sustainability and empowerment.

Dr. Scott Radloff, director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health at USAID, made closing remarks in which he highlighted the CapacityPlus HR framework and urged supply chain managers to apply it to their work.

“The event succeeded in its intent to highlight global efforts to address human resource constraints in public health supply chains in the developing world,” concluded Ekenna. “It was most gratifying to hear speaker after speaker make reference to IntraHealth and CapacityPlus in recognition of our leadership in HRH.”

Photo: Jennifer Solomon