Last week, Louise from the RESULTS office participated in a seminar organised by AMREF and VSO entited ‘The human resources for health crisis: how can we strengthen the UK response?’. The overiding message from the day was that the three health-related Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved without sufficient numbers of trained health workers.
You can read a great summary of the excellent presentations given at the seminar by clicking here. There is also the opportunity for you to add a comment if you feel passionately about the issue.
Fifty-seven countries have a chronic shortage of health workers. The impact of this crisis is felt most strongly in poor, rural communities which struggle to attact professional health workers because of a lack of good facilities to work in, inadequate equipment and often no schools for their children to go to. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that there should be at least 2.3 health workers to deliver basic care per 1,000 people. Many developing countries, and particularly fragile and conflict-affected countries have less than one health worker for every 1,000 people.
It is estimated that more than 4 million extra health workers are needed to eliminate the global deficit including around 800,000 needed in Africa. This includes 2.4 million doctors, nurses and midwives, but also community health workers, laboratory technicians and health managers.
Addressing the global health worker crisis is a crucial part of RESULTS’ advocacy work on health issues such as TB. Well trained and fully motivated health workers are necessary for early and accurate TB diagnosis as well as supporting patients to complete their treatment. The growing burden of drug-resistant TB is placing an extra burden on already over-stretched health workforces.
There are many opportunties in 2010 to ensure that this crisis is high on the political agenda. At the G8 this year, the Canadian government has identified maternal and child health as a priority. They must ensure that developing countries are supported to train, hire and retain enough health workers to provide care to mothers and children and reduce mortality rates from easily preventable causes. The Royal College of Midwives estimate that 350,000 extra midwives are needed globally.
Similarly, the MDG review summit being held this September is a key moment for the international community to ensure that efforts to address the health worker crisis are part of a package of commitments to meet all the health MDGs. You can help to make investment in health workers a global priority by supporting Merlin’s Hands up for Health Workers campaign and adding your name to a worldwide petition.