Health workforce

Measuring health workforce inequalities: methods and applications - Special topic meeting

57th Session of the International Statistical Institute (ISI)
18 August 2009, Durban, South Africa

57th Session of the International Statistical Institute

Overview and objectives

The World Health Organization's Department of Human Resources for Health (WHO/HRH), in collaboration with the International Statistical Institute (ISI), organized a Special Topic Contributed Paper Meeting (STCPM) focusing on "Measuring health workforce inequalities: methods and applications". Original statistical research results were presented from different countries and experiences, under the auspices of the 57th Session of the ISI which was held in Durban, South Africa on 16-22 August 2009.

On 16-22 August 2009, Durban played host to the 57th Session of the International Statistical Institute, the first in Sub-Saharan Africa. An ISI Session, held biennially, provides a platform for the gathering of thousands of the world’s established leading statisticians and the upcoming generation from public, private, research and educational institutions to share experience in a diverse range of statistical issues. The theme of this Session, which drew participants from over 120 countries, was aptly titled “Statistics: our past, present and future”, as South Africa and the African continent celebrate a revitalization of statistics and statistical development. The week-long agenda included paper and poster sessions as well as a series of skills building workshops. Topics covered statistical theory and applications in the fields of health, economics, education and many others. Several scientific papers focusing on data challenges for monitoring the Millennium Development Goals were presented.

In particular, the WHO Department of Human Resources for Health organized a Special Topic Meeting on "Measuring health workforce inequalities", which was held at the Durban International Convention Centre on 18 August 2009. The goal was to promote statistical discourse on measuring health workforce inequalities and the implications for policy and planning. Contributed papers focused on methodological developments and applications for measuring inequalities in health labour markets, with special attention to monitoring trends and evaluating their impacts on health systems performance and population health outcomes.

The health workforce is broadly defined to include all those who promote and preserve health as well as those who diagnose and treat disease. Also included are health management and support workers – those who help make the health system function but who do not provide health services directly.

Health workforce practitioners from three countries – Brazil, Mexico and Ethiopia – presented their research methods and key findings, examining workforce imbalances by occupation, skills utilization, geographical typology and gender. Travel awards were provided by WHO/HRH for the researchers to present their work at the conference. An invited discussant provided a synthesis across papers, offered critical feedback to the researchers, and stimulated audience interest in the subject.

Presentations delivered at the special topic meeting


About the organizations

The mission of the WHO Department of Human Resources for Health is to provide equitable access for all people to an adequately trained, skilled and supported health workforce to contribute towards the attainment of the highest possible level of health. The Department works to strengthen the global knowledge base on the health workforce through the collection, analysis and use of statistical information to support policy and planning.

The International Statistical Institute is one of the oldest international scientific associations active today. With a membership comprised of the world's leading statisticians representing roughly 130 countries, the ISI seeks to develop and improve statistical methods and their application through the promotion of international activities and cooperation covering official, applied and theoretical statistics.

The WHO/HRH and ISI share a vision and strategy for promoting statistical data utilization for evidence-based policy-making and creating fora for sharing best practice.

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