Health Workforce Action after Bangkok

Maurice MiddlebergRecently a thousand people gathered in Bangkok for the Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health. Since then many of us have been reflecting on where to focus our energies. Here’s what’s been on my mind.

Communicating about the crisis and its solutions
The forum opened with a wonderful video on health workers—the best piece in any medium I have ever seen in terms of communicating the essence of the health workforce crisis.

Effective communication about the issues—and how to resolve them—is vital to garnering the support we need to make real progress. To the extent possible, we should commit sufficient resources to this effort.

Leading the way
Over and over again, the theme of leadership emerged. Wherever progress has been achieved, political leadership has been the key element. As we go forward, we need to keep asking:

  • How can we identify, encourage, and support leaders where we are working?
  • How can we help recognize and celebrate those who are showing leadership on the health workforce?

Educating health workers
I had the good fortune to moderate the session on financing health workers (featuring Nigel Crisp, Agnes Soucat, and Marie-Odile Waty) and to attend a session on innovations in educating health professionals. The release of the report from the Education of Health Professionals Global Independent Commission also figured prominently in the discussions. The combination of evolving institutional forms, changes in instructional design, technology, potential management reforms, and diversification of financing could fill the gap between the current capacity of the workforce and what is needed.

Countries that succeed will be driven by a clear vision that responds to national needs. These countries will use a creative combination of direct investment, incentives, regulation, and leadership to create the health workforce they seek.

Informing policy, planning, and decisions
In the Global Health Workforce Alliance progress report, only 43% of countries said they have mechanisms for sharing data to support policy-making. We need more efficient mechanisms to collect, process, and analyze key data for decision-making. Above all, we have to strengthen countries’ capacity to use data.

Sharing success stories
We need more examples of low-income countries that have made progress on the health workforce crisis. A core challenge for CapacityPlus is to add to those success stories. More than ever, our focus will be on countries and on using our resources to greatest effect so that a few more successes can inspire even greater progress.

Related items:


Photo courtesy of IntraHealth International