Adopt new strategies to overcome health workers shortage: GHWA

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New Delhi, May 22 (UNI) In view of the acute shortage of health workers being trained to reach global health goals a task force constituted by the World Health Organisation has recommended urgent implementation of new strategies to address the issue.

In 2006, the World Health Organization estimated a global shortage of 4.3 million health workers. In many countries, the number of people currently being trained to become health workers falls far below the levels needed to meet health and development goals, states a new report released under the auspices of the Global Health Workforce Alliance.

The report titled 'Scaling up, Saving Lives', issued by an international group of experts in health and education at a side event during the 61st World Health Assembly, stresses the need for urgent action to address the acute shortages of health workers. In Ethiopia, for example, some 200 doctors are trained a year for a population of some 75 million while the UK trains more than 6000 doctors for a population of about 60 million.

"We are dealing with an urgent and critical shortage. Without implementing changes thousands of people in the poorest countries in the world will continue to suffer. It is clear that fresh approaches, aligned to local needs, are required. More needs to be done to turn existing knowledge into action at country and international level," said Lord Nigel Crisp, co-Chair of the Task Force for Scaling up Education and training for Health Workers, the international group tasked with producing the report as part of the work of the Global Health Workforce Alliance.

The report underlines that if the current shortage is to be resolved, increased and long-term sustainable investment at both domestic and international levels is urgently needed and this has to be combined with all stakeholders coordinating their efforts to support country-owned health plans.

The report estimates that it will cost an additional 2.6 billion dollars a year to educate and train 1.5 million additional health workers over a 10-year period just in Africa.

Subsequent employment of trained staff will incur additional costs.

"With the shortage of over four million, increased education and training of health workers is fundamental to resolving the crisis.

Generating the necessary political will and commitment among key stakeholders and providing the necessary financing must therefore be a priority. All involved in resolving this crisis must commit to working together to ensure the funding available is implemented effectively and efficiently," said Commissioner Bience Gawanas, co-chair of the Task Force.

The Task Force concludes that if its recommendations are followed, the impact of an increased health workforce, particularly one which focuses on community and mid-level workers, would be seen by the MDG milestone of 2015.

The adoption of ten-year plan with significant financial commitment could see considerable results by 2020, it says .

"With concerted action at the national, regional and global level, the global shortage of health workers could be a thing of the past.

This report shows us how effective and comprehensive interventions can reverse the current reality. But we have no time to lose. We must all work together and act immediately," said Dr Mubashar Sheikh, Executive Director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance.

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