CapacityPlus raised awareness of the need to professionalize under-recognized cadres of health workers that play essential roles in well-functioning health systems, including contributing to the launch of global coalitions and tools to strengthen and support the supply chain and social service workforces.
While the roles of doctors and nurses are widely recognized and understood, there are many types of health workers whose contributions to well-functioning health systems are under-recognized and under-valued. Social service and supply chain personnel are two cadres of health workers that often lack support and a voice in the health system, hindering their education, career development, and professional growth. Due to the amorphous nature of these careers, there is a shortage of talent entering these professions, and individuals currently holding positions often lack the opportunity to fully maximize their performance.
Yet social service workers form a vital safety net for children and families made vulnerable by challenging circumstances such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, providing access to an array of services to promote well-being and protection from harm, including referrals for primary health services such as family planning and maternal and child health care. Supply chain workers also play an essential role in the health system, ensuring access to medicines and other health commodities. Their role is often underestimated until stockouts occur and the effects are seen. When stocks of HIV drugs and supplies run out, unplanned treatment interruptions can lead to increased risk of HIV drug resistance, treatment failure, and death (Pasquet et al. 2010). The devastating effect of lack of access to necessary commodities is also felt in family planning, contributing to unmet need, unintended pregnancies, and maternal and newborn deaths.