CapacityPlus Launches Technical Brief Series with Population Growth and the Global Health Workforce Crisis

CapacityPlus announces its first technical brief, Population growth and the global health workforce crisis, by Sara Pacqué-Margolis, Carie Muntifering, Crystal Ng, and Shaun Noronha. This data-rich brief examines the potential impact of population growth on countries’ efforts to improve access to health workers, and recommends an approach that will help meet families’ health needs while mitigating the health workforce crisis.

Technical Brief #1In 2006, the WHO determined that 2.3 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 people is the minimum threshold needed to provide essential health services. This is commonly referred to as the health worker density ratio. In this technical brief, the authors point out that countries’ efforts to improve this ratio have disproportionately focused on increasing the numerator (health workers). They have paid little attention to the denominator (population size).

A country’s rate of population growth is the critical variable in health workforce planning, the authors assert. The birth of the world’s seven-billionth person on October 31st brought a renewed focus on the implications of the world’s rapidly expanding population. Growing populations will require additional health workers to provide the minimum coverage. However, if countries are able to implement policies and programs that result in smaller population growth rates, the authors demonstrate that the total number of health workers needed could be significantly reduced.

High rates of unmet need for family planning provide an opportunity for intervention. The authors recommend that policy-makers and planners combine efforts to meet men’s and women’s family planning needs with a simultaneous investment in the health workforce. “Doing so would go a long way toward reducing the number of people worldwide with no access to essential health services,” says Pacqué-Margolis. “More importantly, doing so would create a world where far fewer mothers suffer the agony of losing a child because they couldn’t get to a health worker in time.”

The technical brief is available in English and French as well as an online interactive version.

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