Strengthening leadership and ownership of HR information management
Author: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Country: United Republic of Tanzania
Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Tanzania faces a serious shortage of human resources for health (HRH). This shortage impacts upon the capacity of the health system to provide healthcare in the country. Adequately dealing with the human resource challenge requires accurate and up-to-date information on the current supply and status of health workers in the country.
Tanzania lacked a coordinated and centralized information system for managing human resources for health. Multiple information systems existed in the country in a variety of different organizations, each of which has been designed for the specific objectives of the individual organizations rather than for national planning, projection and forecasting purposes. Information was collected from multiple sources, making the information difficult to consolidate and compare. Compounding the issue of multiple systems was the fact that even if a coherent system had been in place, little capacity existed for analyzing and interpreting this data. While the government was aware of the problem, interventions for addressing the issue were themselves disjointed and uncoordinated, with several interventions for development of human resource information systems ongoing in different ministries and organizations at the same time.
To address the human resource and information systems crisis, the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) revised their HRH Strategic Plan in 2008. One of the prioritized activities was to establish a comprehensive Human Resource for Health information system (HRHIS) to facilitate effective planning, production, recruitment and retention of human resources in Tanzania. This would require one centralized system to avoid duplication of effort. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided technical support in the development of the comprehensive HRHIS.
The Ministry decided to establish the HRHIS using available resources in Tanzania. Previous systems had been designed by external organizations, which had led to limited buy-in and country. The HRHIS was to be developed, owned, and managed by Tanzanians. An overarching ‘HRHIS Framework’ was created to guide the coordination of activities under the leadership of Ministry. IT experts from the national university were responsible for designing the HRHIS application, updating the system and training people on the use of the system. The system was piloted in one region initially, with plans to roll it out to the rest of the country after assessing the pilot.
The HRHIS has been rolled out in 5 of the 21 regions, 44 of the 133 districts and all 8 national hospitals. According to the strategic plan, the system will be rolled out to all regions and districts by the end of 2012. The HRHIS has been designed in a coherent and coordinated fashion and was developed, operated and managed by Tanzanians. Judging by the speed of rollout, the rate of data collection, and feedback from users, this country-led approach seems to have been more effective than previous attempts to create information systems for health resources in the country.
Information systems that are developed, led and coordinated within a country are likely to be more sustainable in the longer term due to the higher levels of ‘ownership’ that government has over the process. This also means that the systems are tailored according to the needs of the government, allowing for better planning, production, recruitment and retention of human resources in health.