Listening to the rural health workers in Papua New Guinea - the social factors that influence their motivation to work

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Sep;75(5):828-35. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.04.013. Epub 2012 May 10.


Despite rural health services being situated and integrated within communities in which people work and live, the complex interaction of the social environment on health worker motivation and performance in Low Middle Income Countries has been neglected in research. In this article we investigate how social factors impact on health worker motivation and performance in rural health services in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Face-to-face in-depth interviews were conducted with 33 health workers from three provinces (Central, Madang, and Milne Bay) in PNG between August and November 2009. They included health extension officers, community health workers and nursing officers, some of whom were in charge of the health centres. The health centres were a selection across church based, government and private enterprise health facilities. Qualitative analysis identified the key social factors impacting on health worker motivation and performance to be the local community context, gender roles and family related issues, safety and security and health beliefs and attitudes of patients and community members. Our study identified the importance of strong supportive communities on health worker motivation. These findings have implications for developing sustainable strategies for motivation and performance enhancement of rural health workers in resource poor settings.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Community Health Workers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Social Environment*
  • Work / psychology*
  • Workforce