Health systems

HSS sessions at XVII International Aids Conference

Innovations in Human Resources for Health for HIV

Task shifting to tackle health worker shortages

HSS session venue

• Session type: Symposium
• Venue: Session Room 2
• Date: August, 4th 2008
• Time: 16:30-18:00h

One of the major constraints to provide access to health care services is a serious shortage of health workers. At least 57 countries have a crisis shortage of health workers; 36 of those are in Africa. Task shifting is one way the public health community and national governments can address this issue head-on. Task shifting is the name given to a process of delegation whereby tasks are moved, where appropriate, to less specialized health workers. By reorganizing the workforce in this way, task shifting presents a viable solution for improving health care coverage by making more efficient use of the human resources already available and by quickly increasing capacity while training and retention programmes are expanded.

Several countries are already using task shifting to strengthen their health systems and scale up access to health care services. WHO, together with the US President Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), has developed global guidelines for task shifting. These guidelines were formally launched during the first ever Global Conference on Task Shifting in Addis Ababa on 8-10 January 2008. The Conference convened health ministers and other senior government officials, opinion leaders, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations from both industrialized and resource-constrained countries and concluded with endorsement of the "Addis Ababa Declaration on Task Shifting"