Appealing to Altruism: an alternative strategy to address the health workforce crisis in developing countries

Abstract

A critical challenge facing lower income countries is to attract and retain health workers. Financial incentives, such as higher salaries, are commonly proposed as a key policy intervention to address this problem. Less attention is paid to the role of nurses’ altruism, that is, concern for others, in selecting their profession and sticking with it. This paper presents the findings of an experimental game, a novel approach to investigating human behavior and decision-making, that tried to understand the nature and determinants of nurses’ altruism. The findings show that nurses do show altruism towards patients and poorer people. Future interventions to encourage nurses to enter into and remain in the profession could build on these altruistic values – such as by deliberately recruiting those likely to demonstrate stronger altruism.

Citation

Smith, R.; Lagarde, M.; Blaauw, D.; Goodman, C.; English, M.; Mullei, K.; Pagaiya, N.; Tangcharoensathien, V.; Erasmus, E.; Hanson, K. Appealing to altruism: an alternative strategy to address the health workforce crisis in developing countries? Journal of Public Health (2012) 35 (1) 164-170. [DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fds066]

Appealing to Altruism: an alternative strategy to address the health workforce crisis in developing countries

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