Global disparities in the distribution, specialization, diversity, and competency of the health workforce are striking. Countries with fewer health professionals have poorer health outcomes compared with countries that have more. Despite major gains in health indicators, Rwanda still suffers from a severe shortage of health professionals.
This article describes a partnership launched in 2005 by Rwanda’s Ministry of Health with the U.S. nongovernmental organization Partners In Health and with Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The partnership has expanded to include the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Public Health at the National University of Rwanda and other Harvard-affiliated academic medical centers. The partnership prioritizes local ownership and—with the ultimate goals of strengthening health service delivery and achieving health equity for poor and underserved populations—it has helped establish new or strengthen existing formal educational programs (conferring advanced degrees) and in-service training programs (fostering continuing professional development) targeting the local health workforce. Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have also benefited from the partnership, expanding the opportunities for training and research in global health available to their faculty and trainees.
The partnership has enabled Rwandan health professionals at partnership-supported district hospitals to acquire new competencies and deliver better health services to rural and underserved populations by leveraging resources, expertise, and growing interest in global health within the participating U.S. academic institutions. Best practices implemented during the partnership’s first nine years can inform similar formal educational and in-service training programs in other low-income countries.