Global Leaders Speak Out for Health Workforce Partnerships

Uganda health studentsHealth education in the global context
At the Accordia Foundation’s Health Workforce Partnership Symposium, held September 14 in Washington, DC, US Ambassador Dr. Eric Goosby noted three key points about health education.

1) The US Government (PEPFAR) is committed to building health capacity in developing countries; 2) Over the long term, country ownership and sustainable national capacity is critical to this effort; and 3) PEPFAR will be working with the Global Fund to merge planning processes, initially in 10 countries, and by implication this includes health workforce education.

Developing health schools’ capacity through partnerships
With regard to PEPFAR’s approach and its premier health education response programs the Medical Education Partnership Initiative and the Nursing Education Partnership Initiative, Goosby advised they will be pursuing “twinning partner” arrangements between developing country health education institutions and US professional schools, as well as creating a secretariat to facilitate knowledge generation and sharing and the exchange of good practices.

Responding to a question from CapacityPlus Deputy Director Dr. Kate Tulenko, Goosby elaborated on how the program is envisioned. The program is not expected to have immediate outcomes, but looks to the three-to-five-year horizon. He noted that developing country institutions will prioritize their needs and work with a US institution in addressing those needs.

The effects of out-migration
Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, George Washington University, provided insight into the recent Sub-Saharan African Medical Schools Study, and highlighted the need for institutional capacity building—due in part to the significant out-migration of faculty and lack of research opportunities—and infrastructure deficiencies as major problems. Among the survey findings, Mullan noted that 20% of 164 health education schools in Africa were either faith-based or private institutions, and that out-migration of graduates from all medical schools was in the range of 20% but few schools formally track such data.

Ready for the future
Dr. Francis Omaswa, executive director of the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation, and Dr. Alex Coutinho, executive director of the Infectious Diseases Institute in Uganda, both spoke of the readiness of Africans to take leadership of the health education agenda and the need to support centers of excellence based in Africa, such as the Infectious Diseases Institute, opened in Uganda in 2004.

Photo: Laura Wurts. (Medical officer students at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda)