How can human resources for health interventions contribute to sexual, reproductive, maternal, and newborn healthcare quality across the continuum in low- and lower-middle-income countries? A systematic review

Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Resources for Health, 2021, 19, (1)
Issue Date:
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Abstract Background Well-trained, competent, and motivated human resources for health (HRH) are crucial to delivering quality service provision across the sexual, reproductive, maternal, and newborn health (SRMNH) care continuum to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) maternal and neonatal health targets. This review aimed to identify HRH interventions to support lay and/or skilled personnel to improve SRMNH care quality along the continuum in low- and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs). Methods A structured search of CINAHL, Cochrane Library/trials, EMBASE, PubMed, SCOPUS, Web of Science, and HRH Global Resource Centre databases was undertaken, guided by the PRISMA framework. The inclusion criteria sought to identify papers with a focus on 1. HRH management, leadership, partnership, finance, education, and/or policy interventions; 2. HRH interventions' impact on two or more quality SRMNH care packages across the continuum from preconception to pregnancy, intrapartum and postnatal care; 3. Skilled and/or lay personnel; and 4. Reported primary research in English from LLMICs. A deductive qualitative content analysis was employed using the World Health Organization-HRH action framework. Results Out of identified 2157 studies, 24 intervention studies were included in the review. Studies where ≥ 4 HRH interventions had been combined to target various healthcare system components, were more effective than those implementing ≤ 3 HRH interventions. In primary care, HRH interventions involving skilled and lay personnel were more productive than those involving either skilled or lay personnel alone. Results-based financing (RBF) and its policy improved the quality of targeted maternity services but had no impact on client satisfaction. Local budgeting, administration, and policy to deliver financial incentives to health workers and improve operational activities were more efficacious than donor-driven initiatives. Community-based recruitment, training, deployment, empowerment, supportive supervision, access to m-Health technology, and modest financial and non-financial incentives for community health workers (CHWs) improved the quality of care continuum. Skills-based, regular, short, focused, onsite, and clinical simulation, and/or mobile phone-assisted in-service training of skilled personnel were more productive than knowledge-based, irregular, and donor-funded training. Facility-based maternal and perinatal death reviews, coupled with training and certification of skilled personnel, positively affected SRMNH care quality across the continuum. Preconception care, an essential component of the SRMNH care continuum, lacks studies and services in LLMICs. Conclusions We recommend maternal and perinatal death audits in all health facilities; respectful, woman-centered care as a critical criterion of RBF initiatives; local administration of health worker allowances and incentives; and integration of CHWs into the healthcare system. There is an urgent need to include preconception care in the SRMNH care continuum and studies in LLMICs.
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