Brain Drain of Health Professionals in Tanzania


Adinan Juma, Allen G. Kangalawe, Elizabeth Dalrymple, Tiwonge Kanyenda


Adinan Juma, Allen G. Kangalawe, Elizabeth Dalrymple, Tiwonge Kanyenda (2012). Case Study #9-11, "Brain Drain of Health Professionals in Tanzania". In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), "Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies." 19 pp.


Migration of health professionals worldwide has resulted in an unequal distribution of medical staff globally. The movement of medical staff out of some developing countries, often termed "brain drain," affects the health care system at multiple levels, including both doctors and nurses. Medical staff are leaving their countries because of both push and pull factors. Pull factors include better remuneration and working environment, job satisfaction, and prospects for further education. Push factors include lack of education opportunities, poor working environment, poor infrastructure, and lack of diagnostic equipment. Apart from push and pull factors, the mobility of medical professionals is influenced by their links to the receiving countries. This movement of medical professionals leaves the sending country not only with a shortage of medical professionals, but also increased morbidity and mortality. Without medical personnel, there cannot be timely diagnosis and intervention in the course of disease.

Currently there is a global shortage of 4.25 million health care workers, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone in need of more than half of these workers (WHO 2006a). This shortage is fueled in part by the brain drain of medical personnel. As of 2006, Tanzania, with a population of 40 million, had only 1,264 doctors working in the country and 1,356 doctors working abroad. Tanzania will need to triple its number of doctors if it is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

The crisis of health workers is one of the most significant obstacles to improving the health system in Tanzania and other African countries. The global workforce crisis can be tackled if there is global responsibility, political will, financial commitment, and public-private partnerships for country-led and country-specific interventions that seek solutions beyond the health sector. Only when enough health workers can be trained, sustained, and retained in Sub-Saharan African countries will the region attain the Millennium Development Goals.

Your assignment is to advise the government of Tanzania and other developing countries on a policy to attract health workers to clinical settings within their home countries, taking into account the interests of the important stakeholder groups.

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