Background

As most low and middle-income countries seek to achieve universal health coverage targets, there is an ever-increasing need to train human resources with the required core skills and competencies. This study reports on a needs assessment conducted among health services organisations (HSOs) to understand postgraduate training needs and service gaps for selected public health disciplines – Health Policy and Systems, Health Economics, and Healthcare Management and Planning – at the University of Zambia.

Methods

The study adopted a cross-sectional design, comprising qualitative and quantitative components. Data were collected using semi-structured questionnaires administered to 32 representatives of purposively sampled public and private health service organisations based in Lusaka Zambia. The health services organisations included regulatory authorities, research institutions, government ministries, insurance firms and other cooperating partners.

Results

Overall (n = 22), more than 68% of the stakeholders reported that they had no employees that were formally trained in the three disciplines. More than 90% of the stakeholders opined that training in these disciplines would be beneficial in providing competencies to strengthen service provision. The horizontal skills mismatch for health economics, and health services management and planning were found to be 93 and 100%, respectively. Among the critical public health training needs were: policy development and analysis, economic evaluation, and strategic management.

Conclusions

This study confirms that introducing post-graduate training in the proposed public health disciplines will not only benefit Zambian health services organisations but also help strengthen the health systems in general. For other empirical contexts, the findings imply the need for the introduction of academic programmes which respond to ever-changing public health skills demanded. They should be matched with local priorities and service delivery.

Peter Hangoma

Post Doctoral Researcher

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