World Health Day 2006 - a message from the Director-General
World Health Day 2006 gives us all an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable contribution to human health and development made by health workers. If progress can be made in the priority areas of action outlined in this toolkit and if public trust in health systems can be strengthened, or rekindled where it has been lost, then the potential gains to be made in human health and well-being are incalculable.
All over the world, national health systems are finding it difficult to train, sustain and retain their health workers. In developed countries, as populations age and chronic conditions increase, there is an ever-growing demand for health workers. That need is increasingly being met by recruitment of trained workers from developing countries; a trend which exacerbates the resource shortfall there.
Without a strong health workforce, advances in healthcare cannot reach and benefit the people who need them. Effective ways of preventing and treating disease require assessment, delivery and monitoring by health workers. The capacity to respond to the threat of pandemic human influenza, global efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and all our efforts to address priority diseases are threatened by health workforce shortages. These shortages are not limited to health practitioners, but extend to educators and trainers, managers and support staff. Poor distribution of resources, wasted and unused skills, and migration of health workers are making a bad situation worse.
Solutions do exist and new ones are being actively sought. Innovative and effective ways to educate and train the health workforce, private-public partnerships, adequate financing and management policies, and successful country experiences all help us to learn from each other.
I invite you to join with WHO to raise awareness of this chronic problem and to build support to ensure that health workers will be working where they are needed, when they are needed, with the right skills to provide the highest attainable level of health for people everywhere.
Dr LEE Jong-wook