UN agency hails task force set up to tackle global shortage of health-care workers
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today welcomed the formation of a new task force that will explore how to eliminate the global shortage of doctors, nurses and other health workers, as estimates show another 4.3 million of these professionals are needed, especially in developing countries that are must vulnerable to medical crises.
The Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA), set up last year by WHO, has established the 11-member task force, which includes two current health ministers in African governments as well as a host of senior health administrators and other policy-makers.
The new grouping is expected to focus on championing substantially increased investment in educating and training health workers in developing countries and on building international support for practical steps to deal with the worker shortage.
The greater use of distance-learning technology and increased links between universities and training institutions in the developed and the developing world are among the issues under consideration.
In a statement released by WHO at its headquarters in Geneva, Director-General Margaret Chan said “the simple fact is that the world needs many more health workers… Infectious diseases have staged a dramatic comeback, and chronic diseases are on the rise. We cannot improve people’s health without staff to deliver health care.”
WHO estimates there is a shortage of 4.3 million health workers around the world, including more than 1 million in Africa, and 57 countries have been labelled as having critical shortages of workers.
The task force, which met for the first time today, is co-chaired by Lord Nigel Crisp, the former chief executive of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, and Bience Gawanas, the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Social Affairs. Its initial recommendations are due to be presented to the GHWA Forum during the northern autumn this year.
The GHWA was set up in May last year with the aim of bringing UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academics, professional associations, donors and others together to find solutions to the health workforce crisis. The Alliance’s secretariat is provided by WHO.