Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), commented, "The simple fact is that the world needs many more health workers. The world faces global as well as local threats to health. Infectious diseases have staged a dramatic comeback, and chronic diseases are on the rise. We cannot improve people's health without staff to deliver healthcare.
The new global Task Force, chaired by Lord Nigel Crisp, former chief executive of the National Health Service in
The Joint Learning Initiative (2004) and the World Health Report 2006 brought this shortage of healthcare workers to the worlds attention, and the World Health Assembly called for urgent action. Fifty-seven countries have critical shortages of health workers, and 36 of these are in sub-Saharan
HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, and maternal and child mortality which together kill many millions of people annually across the world, will not be significantly reduced unless the crisis in health workers is tackled, said Crisp. There is an urgent need for a massive international effort to train more healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, managers and community health workers.
The Task Force will focus on practical solutions. It will also consider the need and scope for financial and technical support internationally, as well as links between training institutions and universities in the developed and developing world, and innovative use of technology for distance-learning.
Already some countries are beginning to address the problem. Countries such as Ethiopia, India, and Malawi are rapidly increasing the production of health workers through education and training. The Ethiopian government, for example, has an ambitious program to train 30 000 community health workers (Health Extension Workers) by 2009, so that people in villages have access to basic essential health services. The
The Task Force will look at the impact of such programs, and assess the scope to replicate these and the resources needed to do so.
The Task Force is due to present its initial recommendations to the GHWA Forum in the fall of 2007.
Source: World Health Organization