Designing financial-incentive programmes for return of medical service in underserved areas of sub-Saharan Africa
In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa health worker shortages are one of the main constraints in achieving population health goals. Financial-incentive programmes for return of service, whereby participants receive payments in return for a commitment to practice for a period of time in a medically underserved area, can alleviate local and regional health worker shortages through two mechanisms. First, they can redirect the flow of those health workers who would have been educated without financial incentive from well-served to underserved areas. Second, they can add health workers to the pool of workers who would have been educated without financial incentives and place them in underserved areas. While financial-incentive programmes are an attractive option to increase the supply of health workers to medically underserved areas – they offer students who otherwise would not have the means to finance a health care education an opportunity to do so, establish legally enforceable commitments to work in underserved areas, and work without compulsion – these programmes may be difficult to implement.
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