The Global Health Workforce Crisis

Session virtual link: Digital Session, Meeting ID: 988 8257 0262

Session abstract

Enormous gaps between the potential of health systems and their actual performance remain, and there are far too many inequities in the distribution of health workers between countries and within countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, with about 11% of the world’s population bears over 24% of the global disease burden, is home to only 3% of the global health workforce and spends less than 1% of the world’s financial resources on health. In most developing countries, the health workforce is concentrated in the major towns and cities, while rural areas can only boast of about 23% and 38% of the country’s doctors and nurses respectively. The imbalances exist not only in the total numbers and geographical distribution of health workers, but also in the skills mix of available health workers. WHO estimates that 57 countries worldwide have a critical shortage of health workers, equivalent to a global deficit of about 2.4 million doctors, nurses and midwives. Thirty-six of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. The health workforce crisis has contributed to many countries’ inability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and is likely to affect the ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage. Solutions to the workforce crisis have mainly targeted service providers (physicians, nurses, etc.) by either improving the local and global supply of these workers or reducing the workload burden through task-shifting. However, focusing on service providers will not overcome crucial barriers in the implementation and scale-up of health services such as stockout of health commodities, ill-constructed facilities, and outdated information systems

Healthcare systems should be founded on equality, quality and social responsibility. To improve health conditions in low-resource countries, it is crucial that national healthcare services be able to provide free and high-quality medical treatment replete with competent medical staff. The goal is a full application of the universal human right to healthcare.. Creating centers of excellence that can offer specialized training, will help in the movement towards a more resilient health workforce and contribute to the ‘brain drain to brain gain’ phenomenon. The UN Commission on Health Employment and Economy growth has projected the creation of over 40 mil new health sector jobs by 2030, globally. This is critical for health but also means that more people will receive a regular salary, thus contributing to the stabilization of economies. Moreover, since women represent approx. 70% of health workforce this means also investing in gender equality. A functional and resilient health sector can help consolidate regional cooperation and will inspire confidence in a national health system capable of facing outbreaks and new emergencies.

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