To identify and systematize available empirical evidence on factors and interventions that affect working conditions and environment in order to increase the attraction, recruitment and retention of human resources for health at the primary care level in rural, remote or underserved areas.
Rapid review of reviews selected according to relevance, eligibility and inclusion criteria. The search was conducted on electronic and manual databases, including grey literature. AMSTAR I was used to assess the quality of systematic reviews and a thematic analysis for synthesis of the results.
Sixteen reviews were included, one of which contained 14 reviews. Of the total, 20 reviews analyzed factors and 9 evaluated the effectiveness of interventions. The evidence on factors is abundant, but of limited quality. Individual, family and “previous exposure to a rural setting” factors were associated with higher recruitment;
organizational and external context factors were important for human resource retention. Networking and professional support influenced recruitment and retention. Evidence on the effectiveness of interventions was limited, both in quantity and quality. The most frequently used intervention was incentives.
Evidence on factors that are positively related to recruitment and retention of workers at the first level of care in rural, remote or underserved areas is sufficient and should be taken into account when designing interventions. Quality evidence on the effectiveness of interventions is scarce. More controlled studies with methodological rigor are needed, particularly in the Americas.