Health workforce

Education and training

Over a billion people worldwide lack access to quality health services — in large part because of a huge shortage, imbalanced skill mix, and uneven geographical distribution of health workers. WHO estimates that an additional 4.3 million health workers are needed worldwide. The health workforce crisis has disastrous implications for the health and well-being of millions of people, yet not enough health workers are being produced to close this shortfall.

Transformative scale-up of health professional education

Overview of the WHO Initiative to increase the numbers, quality and relevance of health professionals and to strengthen their impact on population health.

Scaling up educational programmes to produce multi-disciplinary service delivery teams - which include a carefully balanced mix of clinicians, community health workers and health managers - is clearly urgent and essential. However, simply increasing the numbers of workers will not be enough. The shortage of health workers is compounded by the fact that their skills, competencies, clinical experience, and expectations are often poorly suited to the health needs of the populations they serve.

WHO is working with a wide range of stakeholders to find answers for scaling up the health workforce to increase the quantity, and to improve the quality and relevance of health workers to meet the needs of the 21st century and contribute to better population health outcomes.

WHO programme on education and production of health workers

WHO Initiative on transformative scale-up of health professional education

The Initiative aims to support and advance the performance of country health systems so as to meet the needs of individuals and populations in an equitable and efficient manner.

Masters Degree programme with a focus on health workforce development

New Masters Degree programme to produce planners and managers needed to spearhead health workforce scale up and development, starting with Sub-Saharan Africa.

WHO Fellowship programme

The WHO Fellowship programme serves as a tool to support Member States to scale up the production of health personnel to overcome the critical challenges in human resources for health.

World Directory of Medical Schools

The Avicenna Directories database, developed in collaboration with The University of Copenhagen, will replace the World Directory of Medical Schools and be expanded to other health professions, starting with Pharmacy and Public Health Schools.

Scaling Up, Saving Lives

Scaling Up, Saving Lives offers ten recommendations to national governments, educational institutions and development partners for scaling up education and training.

Knowledge sharing


Global Action Plan for Pharmacy Education 2008-2010

Developed by the International Pharmaceutical Federation, WHO and UNESCO to scale up pharmacy education and practice relevant to needs, with a focus on countries in health workforce crisis.

WFPHA Goal 2: To advance public health practice, education/training and research

World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) Strategic Plan 2007-2012 updates the Federation's vision, mission, goals and strategies and serves as a road map for activities in support of the achievement of the goals. Its Goal 2 is focused on scaling up public health workforce development.

HRH Milestones

Contact us

Human Resources for Health
World Health Organization (WHO)
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
Tel: +41 22 791 2542
Fax: +41 22 791 4747