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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Provider Perspectives are Vital to Solving Widespread Absenteeism in Kenyan Health Care Clinics

In some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, it’s fairly common for health care providers to be unexpectedly absent from clinical practice.

A new study from Dr. Katherine Tumlinson, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, shows that engaging Kenyan health care providers on their experiences and perspectives is key to addressing their absenteeism. Dr. Tumlinson is the lead author of “Understanding healthcare provider absenteeism in Kenya: a qualitative analysis,” which was published online September 11 in BMC Health Services Research.

Dr. Tumlinson says it’s important to understand health system challenges from the perspective of health care providers themselves, because they are the ones on the front lines of service delivery.

“When such perspectives are overlooked, it is a disservice to those who we entrust with the public’s health,” she says. “We often forget that providers have needs, just like patients.”

While maternal mortality and under-five mortality around the world have steadily decreased since 1990, death rates remain high in many low-income settings within sub-Saharan Africa. One factor contributing to the poor quality of health care delivery in these regions is provider absenteeism.

To learn more, Dr. Tumlinson and her team examined factors that influence absenteeism among health care providers in Kenya.

“Our recent and very preliminary data suggest that between 25 and 50 percent of public sector health care providers in western Kenya are absent at any given time,” says Dr. Tumlinson. “A number of factors contribute to high levels of absenteeism, including infrequent supervision, lack of professional consequences, limited accountability and low wages.”

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