WHO Report 200611th April 2006
The World Health Report 2006 'Working together for health' contains an assessment of the current crisis in the global health workforce and proposals to tackle it over the next ten years.
It reveals an estimated shortage of almost 4.3 million doctors, midwives, nurses and support workers worldwide. The shortage is most severe in the poorest countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where health workers are most needed. It focuses on all stages of the health workers' career lifespan from entry to health training, to job recruitment through to retirement, laying out a ten-year action plan in which countries can build their health workforces, with the support of global partners.
The Lancet comments on the Report, saying that the central importance of human resources to health means this issue deserves high international priority. Therefore the attention generated by the WHR is to be warmly welcomed.
However, the Lancet also says that 'the report is also a disappointment'. The Editorial continues 'it falls far short' in terms of providing the kind of detailed data on human-resource gaps and needs to help governments make resource decisions.
The health workers, the Lancet says, are discussed as an artificially homogeneous group, with very little information about key attributes such as geographical distribution, types and level of skills, and the balance between public and private sectors.
The Editorial notes the difficulties of collating such accurate and detailed information, but this 'information is crucial to the success of WHO's plans for immediate labour-market interventions to address the crisis'.
The Lancet concludes that the 'patchy and incomplete' picture presented in the WHR shows just how much of a gap exists between current knowledge and what is necessary to inform policymaking. In recognising the importance of human resources to health, the WHO must now 'ensure its own human resources can cope with the analytical burden of turning its workforce plans into action'.
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