Medical diaspora: an underused entity in low- and middle-income countries’ health system development

10 December, 2019

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I have personally been impressed with UK-based diaspora associations such as the Uganda UK Health Association and the Zambia UK Health Workforce Alliance (the latter is very much broader than, but engages the, diaspora) and the Zambia UK Nurses Association. This new paper in Human Resources for Health takes a leap forward by identifying diaspora associations in four countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia) and looking at their roles and potential. Citation and abstract below. Full text here:

CITATION: Medical diaspora: an underused entity in low- and middle-income countries’ health system development

Seble Frehywot, Chulwoo Park & Alexandra Infanzon

Human Resources for Health volume 17, Article number: 56 (2019)



At present, over 215 million people live outside their countries of birth, many of which are referred to as diaspora—those that live in host countries but maintain strong sentimental and material links with their countries of origin, their homelands. The critical shortage of Human Resources for Health (HRH) in many developing countries remains a barrier to attaining their health system goals. Usage of medical diaspora can be one way to meet this need. A growing number of policy-makers have come to acknowledge that medical diaspora can play a vital role in the development of their homeland’s health workforce capacity. To date, no inventory of low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) medical diaspora organizations has been done. This paper intends to develop an inventory that is as complete as possible, of the names of the LMIC medical diaspora organizations in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia and addresses their interests and roles in building the health system of their country of origin.


The researchers utilized six steps for their research methodology: (1) development of rationale for choosing the four destination countries (the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia); (2) identification of low- and middle-income countries (LMIC); (3) web search for the name of LMIC medical diaspora organization in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia through the search engines of PubMed, Scopus, Google, Google Scholar, and LexisNexis; (4) development of inclusion and exclusion criteria and creation of a medical diaspora organizations’ inventory list (Table 1) and corresponding maps (Figures 1, 2, and 3). Using decision criteria, reviewers narrowed the number to a final 89 organizations; (5) synthesis of information to collect the general as well as the unique roles the medical diaspora organizations play in building health systems; and (6) developing inventory of respective LMIC governments’ diaspora offices (Table 2) to identify units/departments that facilitate diaspora’s work.


In total, the authors found 89 medical diaspora organizations in 4 main countries: in the United States of America 60, in the United Kingdom 24, in Australia 3, and in Canada 2. These medical diaspora organizations tend to have three focuses: providing healthcare services, training, and when needed humanitarian aid to their home country; creating a social or professional network of migrant physicians (i.e., simply to bring together people with an ethnic and professional commonality) and; supplying improved and culturally sensitive healthcare to the migrant population within the host country. Sixty-eight LMIC countries have established a diaspora office within their government office. It is also equally important to note that many policy-makers may lack knowledge of models for medical diaspora engagement or of valuable lessons learned by other governments about working with diaspora.


The medical diaspora remains an underutilized resource in both health systems policy formulation and program implementation.

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: