Critical shortage of trained health workers hampering the delivery of health services: WHO
7 September 2012 | Yogyakarta, Indonesia – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Myanmar have a critical shortage of trained health workers. These countries have fewer than 23 health workers (doctors, nurses and midwives) per 10 000 population which is considered the minimum health workforce needed to achieve 80% coverage of essential health interventions. More people lack access to health-care providers in the WHO South-East Asia Region than in WHO’s African Region.
A recent review of human resources for health conducted in February 2012 revealed that countries with a health workforce crisis have been unable to increase the number of health workers to acceptable numbersi. Funding support has not been sufficient to bring about the desired improvement in these countries.
“More than 1 million trained health-care workers are needed in the Region to correct the health workforce deficit” said Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO’s Regional Director for South-East Asia. “Countries in the South-East Asia Region are facing challenges in health workforce production, deployment, utilization, and career development. Migration of staff from rural to urban areas, public to private sector and to other countries is putting a strain on the health systems in the Region” he added.
Efforts in training and educating health workforces are largely fragmented due to limited resources and lack of clear policy directions. There is a need to renew the commitment to and investment in strengthening health workforce training and education.
To achieve universal health coverage countries need a competent and motivated health workforce trained in adequate numbers with the appropriate types and mix of skills. Community-based health workers are the backbone of primary health care and need to be given special attention. An effective community-based health workforce ensures that essential health interventions reach the unreached.
They need training, to gain knowledge and skills appropriate for working in their communities. Countries such as Bhutan have provided support to their communitybased health workers through a new Bachelor in Public Health programme through the Royal Institute of Health. This initiative was supported by WHO, and Thailand provided assistance for curriculum development.
WHO recommends that Member States review their national health policies, strategies and assess education and training of their health workforce to increase the production and quality of these key providers of both preventative and curative health care.