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New UN-backed alliance seeks to reverse worldwide doctor, health worker shortage

01.01.70

A new United Nations-backed global partnership to address the worldwide shortage of nurses, doctors, midwives and other health workers was launched today, drawing together key partners to help countries improve the way they plan for, educate and employ health workers.

The inadequacy of the health workforce in many developing countries is a major obstacle to providing essential life-saving health services to millions of people who lack access now, UN World Health Organization Assistant Director-General Timothy Evans said of the Global Health Workforce Alliance. Coordinated action to address this crisis at the global level, in regions and within countries must begin now.

Fifty-seven countries, 36 of them in sub-Saharan Africa, have severe shortages and more than 4 million additional doctors, nurses, midwives, managers and public health workers are urgently needed to fill this gap.

Responding to calls by African Heads of State, the G8 industrialized countries and the World Health Assembly for urgent solutions to the health workforce crisis, the Alliance, whose secretariat will be hosted by WHO, will seek practical approaches such as improving working conditions and reaching more effective agreements to manage the migration of health workers.

An adequate health workforce is defined by WHO as at least 2.3 well-trained health care providers available per 1,000 people and balanced in such a way as to reach 80 per cent of the population or more with skilled birth attendance and childhood immunization.

The Alliance will start an ambitious programme the Fast Track Training Initiative to quickly increase the number of qualified workers by mobilizing direct financial support for training institutions, setting up partnerships between schools in industrialized and developing countries for exchanges of faculty and students, and nurturing academic leaders in developing countries with the support of experts from around the world.

The Global Health Workforce Alliance will bring together all the stakeholders needed to move forward on this plan with a view to sharing evidence-based practices countries can follow to expand their workforces and make them more effective, said Lincoln Chen, WHO Special Envoy for Human Resources for Health and Chair of the Alliance's Board.

The initial partners include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Canadian International Development Agency, the European Commission, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Global Equity Initiative at Harvard University, the International Council of Nurses, the New Partnership for Africas Development, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Physicians for Human Rights, the World Bank and WHO.

Its executive director, Francis Omaswa, is the former Director General of Health Services of Uganda. The Government of Norway has donated $3.5 million towards the Alliances operations during its first year. Seed money for its start-up was donated by the governments of Canada, Ireland and Sweden.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek

02.12.06

Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard dEstaing

02.12.06

Olivier Giscard dEstaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi

02.12.06

Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliy
Bill Pace

02.12.06

Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal

01.12.06

Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group