10.4 The health workforce: advances in responding to shortages and migration, and in preparing for emerging needs

Key documents

The health workforce: advances in responding to shortages and migration, and in preparing for emerging needs (EB132/23

Secretariat note

The report combines several requested elements: a Member State request for information on the development of 
the health workforce to support universal health coverage; the report required under Article 9.2 of the WHO 
requirements of Article 7.2(c); and report on progress made in implementation of resolutions WHA64.6 and 
WHA64.7 on health workforce strengthening, and strengthening nursing and midwifery respectively. The Board 
is invited to note the report.

PHM comment pre-EB

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Report of discussion 

MS called for a greater and more comprehensive strategy on the health workforce – including education and training of health workers considering the shortage of professionals that many of them experience.

Nigeria emphasised south-south and north-south collaboration and supported a special training fund in developing countries to address the negative effects of migration; it said “‘Africa needs more aid workers now more than any time in history”. Nigeria called upon WHO to mobilise resources for training and retention of aid workers, and stressed that this must be included in the post 2015 agenda and the twelfth General Programme of Work. Morocco, on behalf of EMRO, emphasised the importance of strengthening national capacities and the need for educational and financial support for countries to train health professionals.

Ecuador referenced its recent program ‘please return’ – urging workers to return to Ecuador, which included increases in pay for physicians and nurses.

Switzerland and Norway expressed concern that only forty eight countries had submitted a report on the Code of Practice for Recruitment of Health Professionals, with thirty five of these countries being European ones. They stressed that this should be investigated before 2015 and raised a question on the next steps to be taken. They also affirmed that further cooperation with OECD for statistical trends is needed.

Norway argued that strengthening health systems and UHC are not realistic without a global health workforce. The US sought clarification on WHO no longer providing staffing on the global code related to migration. Brazil affirmed that it will host the global forum on human resources for health in November in Recife, Pernambuco (for more information see the following link: http://www.who.int/workforcealliance/forum/en/)

From the international agencies perspective, ILO also affirmed that the health workforce is critical for achieving UHC. Addressing shortages is not just a number game – it requires investment in the health sector especially in public services - particularly nursing and midwifery. The World Health Professional Alliance welcomed the progresses and sought comprehensive sustainable programmes.  The Secretariat, through the ADG/HIS, stated it will produce a more in-depth analysis for the next WHA, along with some suggestions for solutions, including regional platforms. The Secretariat urged MS to go home and ‘rattle their country's cage so to speak so they set up a focal point’. At the moment the work is included in the Program Budget but financing is not ensured. Four technical officers are responsible for the application of the code in Geneva, with six further staff for the regional offices.

PHM comment post-EB

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Other reports and commentary

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