Human Resources for Health: Addressing Rwanda’s Shortage of Health Professionals

Sub-Saharan Africa bears 24% of the global burden of disease but is served by only 4% of the global health workforce. (WHO)

In four short weeks, I’ll be working as a Research Intern at the Rwanda Biomedical Center in Kigali; I have never been more excited to step out of my comfort zone than I am in this moment. The efforts taking place in Rwanda are a spectacular example of what it takes to rebuild a public health system. The 1994 genocide deteriorated Rwanda’s fragile economy and health infrastructure. As a result of the widespread violence, the nation experienced a significant loss of health care professionals and a steep increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. (as of 2012, the estimated HIV prevalence is 2.9%). Concern over the Rwanda’s skyrocketing AIDS epidemic led the Government of Rwanda to collaborate with Partners in Health and the Clinton Health Access Initiative in 2005. This partnership has come a long way:

  • PIH supports the Government of Rwanda’s delivery of health care services to approx. 865,000 people through 3 hospitals and 40 health centers in Rwanda’s poorest regions. 
  • CHAI has worked in Rwanda since 2002 to scale up HIV/AIDS care and treatment, contribute to health infrastructure, and promote economic development.
  • In Aug 2013, CHAI and the Government of Rwanda announced a program that will combat malnutrition through collaboration with food producers, development of local food processing industries, and increased income for small holder farmers.

However, Rwanda still experiences a significant lack of human resources — physicians, nurses, midwives, management officials. The WHO recommends a minimum level of 2.3 health care providers per 1,000 population; Rwanda has a density of 0.84 providers per 1,000 population. In an effort to strengthen the nation’s health workforce, the Government of Rwanda and CHAI invited 25 American institutions (16 academic medical centers, six nursing schools, one public health school, and two dental schools) to form a 7-year partnership known as the Human Resources for Health program.

Through this initiative, health professionals from the United States- dentists, doctors, nurses, management officials, and midwives – will partner with Rwandan health professionals to exchange knowledge and skills that will promote the ability of the Rwandan health force to sustainably and comprehensively address their nation’s health needs. Each year, approximately 100 health workers from the United States will “twin” with colleagues in Rwanda.

Human Resources for Health was announced in 2012, and I am extremely excited to monitor and watch this initiative grow. Rwanda has shown immense dedication to eventually breaking free of dependence on foreign aid, and this is evident through efforts to improve and sustain health infrastructure, medical education, and proper health outcomes.

For more information on the Human Resources for Health program, visit:

The Official HRH website

NEJM article detailing the program


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Bringing it Back to the (Global Health) Book Worm Days!

Let’s be truthful — I haven’t been reading leisurely over the past 3.5 years at NYU. I haven’t been reading much except NYT articles, truthfully. Now that I’ve graduated and I start the process of reassessing and re-inventing myself, my first step is to engage my mind and spirit with some moving, challenging works.

And so I present…. My (Global Health) reading list! I have many other texts outside the discipline that I’ve included, and that is because everything is interdisciplinary. History, economics, politics, health – they are all related.

I’m eager to blog more, and for now, enjoy!

Medicine and Culture
Will to Live
The Truth About Drug Companies
How Doctors Think
Partner to the Poor
When Doctors Don’t Listen
How to Repair the World
A Field Guide To Germs
The Origins of AIDS
The Self Regulation of Health and Illness Behavior
The Ghost Map
Six Months in Sudan
A Bed For the Night
Infections and Inequalities
Reimagining Global Health
Uncertain Suffering
Family Secrets
What to Eat
Pathologies of Power
Poor Economics
A Short History of Nearly Everything
 “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
“The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris
“The Life and Times of Lyndon B. Johnson” by Robert Caro
 “However Long the Night” by Aimee Molloy
 “The Heart and the Fist” by Eric Greitens
 “Why We Can’t Wait” and ” Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community” by MLK
 “Born to Run” by Chris McDougall
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
How Wall Street Created a Nation: J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal
The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
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