International efforts to achieve global development goals in health have raised concerns about the availability of a well-trained and effective health workforce. As a result, the health workforce has been the focus of many global initiatives in the last decade that have called for urgent action to overcome the so-called ‘health workforce crisis’. Despite some progress, the health workforce challenges remain a critical bottleneck in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals in most countries.
The current demand shortage of millions of health workers is expected to double in 15 years, with the largest shortages predicted to occur in the regions of East Asia and the Pacific (8.3 million) and South Asia (3.2 million), accentuating the global imbalances in the distribution of health workers. Compared to the health workers’ needs-based projections, the scenario is even more troublesome. In low-income countries (LICs), for example, both the demand for and the supply of health workers are projected to remain significantly below the needs-based threshold. As a result, these countries will likely face shortages of health workers needed to provide basic health services and unemployment of health workers due to the limited capacity to employ the available supply of workers (insufficient demand).
One of the reports being discussed at today’s World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) focuses on these issues and offers ways in which to accelerate UHC through health professional education.
This report aims to stimulate the global debate on how investments in the education of health workers can help accelerate progress towards UHC. The report acknowledges the positive, demand-side influences that arise from the adoption of reforms of health systems towards UHC and argues that these need to be extended to inform a renewal of investments in health worker education.
Four entry points are put forward as critical education investment areas:
- Target the next generation of health workers through active, progressive, competitive and fair recruitment.
- Reform the scale, scope and value for money of pre-service education institutions.
- Create continuous education opportunities as a more valued driver of career advancement.
- Reform the authorising environment through national, regional and international regulatory reforms.
The authors argue that the implementation of these reforms will benefit from a concerted focus on three cross-cutting fronts that transcend the traditional sector divides of health–education: leadership, financing and evidence.
The interdependence of investment in health and education, and in the public and private sectors, represents an important interface that will benefit from continued focus, perhaps as part of a future discussion.
Read the full report here.
Read all the WISH forum reports here.
About the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH)
WISH focuses on some of the most pressing global health challenges facing governments, health systems and populations. WISH brings together internationally renowned experts, who work with advisory groups to publish evidence-based reports on a range of healthcare topics each year.
Chaired by a team of experts drawn from academia, industry and policymaking, the WISH Forums look in depth at the challenges faced in each area – surveying the literature and interviewing experts in the field. The Forum reports present some of the very best innovations that have been shown to have real impact across the developed and the developing world.
During the Summit, the Forum reports will form the basis of a series of panel discussions hosted by leading experts. The Chair of each Forum will open the panel discussion, focusing on ways key issues can be tackled and considering some of the available innovations that might help.
For further information about WISH and previous conferences, visit their website.