[Excerpt from authors]Background: Many countries in middle- and low-income countries today suffer from severe staff shortages and/or maldistribution of health personnel which has been aggravated more recently by the disintegration of health systems in low-income countries and by the global policy environment. One of the most damaging effects of severely weakened and under-resourced health systems is the difficulty they face in producing, recruiting, and retaining health professionals, particularly in remote areas. Low wages, poor working conditions, lack of supervision, lack of equipment and infrastructure as well as HIV and AIDS, all contribute to the flight of health care personnel from remote areas. In this global context of accelerating inequities health service policy makers and managers are searching for ways to improve the attraction and retention of staff in remote areas. But the development of appropriate strategies first requires an understanding of the factors which influence decisions to accept and/or stay in a remote post, particularly in the context of mid and low income countries (MLICS), and which strategies to improve attraction and retention are therefore likely to be successful. It is the aim of this review article to explore the links between attraction and retention factors and strategies, with a particular focus on the organisational diversity and location of decision-making.