Daily Video

September 16, 2009

Tanzania’s Brain Drain

Tanzania has a brain drain problem; not enough doctors to treat its more than 40 million people.

To combat this, the Tanzanian Government now trains clinical workers to treat most of the common conditions and infectious diseases and deputizes them assistant medical officers, or AMOs. Using a system they call “task-shifting” most hospitals are almost entirely staffed by the equivalent of physician assistants.

Even with AMOs, health prospects in Tanzania are grim: a mother dies in child birth every hour. According to a study released in August in the Journal of Health Affairs, Africa has only 30 percent of the 1.16 million doctors, nurses and midwives it needs.

Ray Suarez reports from the East African nation in the first of three video reports.


“At this crowded district hospital in Kahama, Tanzania, where patients double and even triple up on beds, there’s only one fully trained physician for a population of 800,000. ” Ray Suarez, NewsHour

“In the U.S., if you fell ill and you’re taken to hospital, you are going to meet a doctor. In my country, that’s a luxury. A lot of people have gone to their graves without meeting a doctor.” Dr. David Mwakyusa, Minister of Health, Tanzania

“If we care about HIV-AIDS patients, if we care about malaria patients, infant mortality, all of these really crucial areas, then we ought to care about how that care is delivered.” Lee Wells, Touch Foundation

Warm Up Questions

1. How might health care in a poor African country be different from the United States?

2. How would your life be different if you couldn’t see a doctor?

Discussion Questions

1. Does watching this report change your view on healthcare in this country?

2. What is a “brain drain”? Why do doctors leave Tanzania?

2. What do you think about AMOs? Do you think they could work in the United States?

3. List all of the reasons that you think Tanzania cannot staff all of its hospitals. What could change these conditions?

Additional Resources

Global Health Watch

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