Health worker crisis
Fifty-seven countries, 36 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, have severe shortages of health workers. More than four million additional doctors, nurses, midwives, managers and public health workers are urgently needed to fill this gap. The shortage of health workers in many developing countries is a major obstacle to addressing HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and responding to emerging diseases including a potential influenza pandemic. In developed countries, a rise in chronic health problems among ageing populations and ageing of their own workforces has led to an ever-growing demand for health workers. The pull of higher salaries in industrialized countries and the push of poor working conditions at home drive thousands of health workers to seek jobs abroad each year.
The opportunities / the solutions
Following up on its commitments in 2002 and 2005 to support sustainable health systems, including the strengthening of training facilities for the recruiting and training of health professionals, the G8 can:
- dedicate 50% of all new health funding to developing countries to strengthening health systems. Of those funds, 50% should be dedicated specifically to training, retaining and sustaining the health workforce;
- provide direct financial support for health training institutions in countries facing severe health worker shortages;
- facilitate training partnerships between schools in G8 and developing countries involving exchanges of faculty and students;
- enter into new bilateral agreements on ethical recruitment of and working conditions for migrant health workers
- take part in international planning on the health workforce for global health threats such as an influenza pandemic;
- take the necessary steps to assure an adequate national health workforce.
Many countries, notably those in sub-Saharan Africa, lack:
- financial means, facilities and educators to train sufficient health workers for adequate coverage of the population;
- mechanisms to compensate for the heavy demands placed on the available health workforce by programmes focused on a single high-impact disease;
- a comprehensive national policy and plan on human resources for health including adequate remuneration and working conditions.
To meet the investment costs of training an adequate health workforce by 2025, the average country with a severe shortage would need to increase its annual level of health spending by about US$ 1.60 per capita. To pay the salaries of the scaled-up workforce as they finish training, a minimum increase of US$ 8.30 per capita would be required. That is a total increase in spending of US$ 10 per capita on the health workforce by 2025.
- Technical leadership and support on health workforce development in countries worldwide.
- Collection, analysis and provision of access to evidence and best practices for health workforce development.
- Working with partners, including hosting and serving as the chief technical partner in the Global Health Workforce Alliance, whose role is to spur country action in implementing the ten-year health workforce plan set forth in The world health report 2006: working together for health1.