IFGH 2012: A Humanitarian Work Psychology Contribution to Human Resources for Health?

January 30, 2012


Authors:MacLachlan M.1, McAuliffe E.1, Mannan H.1, Carr S.2

Author Affiliations:1Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin, 2Poverty Research Group, Massey University, New Zealand

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings Presented as – Oral Presentation


This paper outlines how the new area of Humanitarian Work Psychology can contribute to addressing challenges in Human Resources for Health in low and middle-income countries.
It describes and summarises the results from 3 recent studies.


  • 1300 participants across 6 low and middle income countries responded to a survey of the effects of salary differentials on the work attitudes of expatriate and local workers.
  • A systematic review of 28,000 documents on the relationship between pay and performance among civil servants (including doctors, nurses, mid-level occupations) in low and middle-income countries.
  • A systematic review of 235 documents on evaluation of alternative cadre in Community Based Rehabilitation. 


The dual salary system in international aid has negative effects on the work behaviour of people in low and middle-income countries.

There is insufficient evidence to establish the efficacy of performance-for-pay systems for civil servants in low and middle-income countries. 

There is very little evaluative work on alternative cadres in Community Based Rehabilitation and that which exists is not comparable. 


Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

Many interventions in HRH in low and middle-income countries have been well motivated by the urgent need to ‘gap-fill’ areas of staff or skill scarcity in order to support fragile health systems, and this has resulted in many innovative initiatives. If these initiatives are to deliver on their potential, a more scientific and systematic approach needs to be taken to issues such as the effects of salary differentials, the relationship between performance and pay, task shifting, skill mix, motivation and supervision. Humanitarian Work Psychology can make a useful contribution to these challenges.


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