September 20, 2016

Investments in health workforce is needed to make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, according to a United Nations High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth report.

The report, released Tuesday on the margin of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York made an appeal for immediate global investments in health workforce globally to create new jobs in the health sector in order to prevent a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers primarily in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and help countries to maximize the social and economic benefits of increased health employment.

The UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, chaired by President François Hollande and President Jacob Zuma, recommended 10 practical proposals, including harnessing the capabilities of information and communication technologies to improve health education, health information systems, reform service models as well as leverage technologies to provide effective, high-quality and affordable care to people.

The 10 proposals will help stimulate and ensure investments in core International Health Regulations core capacities, such as humanitarian settings and public health emergencies, both acute and protracted and ensure protection and security of all health workers and health facilities in all settings.

More importantly, experts say it will guard against health emergency events and outbreaks such as Ebola, which exposed the lack of coordination and preparedness in several of the international agencies.

Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD said “These recommendations will chart the course to achieve greater and more effective investment in the health workforce. This will be a critical element to promote better lives and help our economies flourish and achieve their full potential.”

With the increasing rates of non communicable diseases and aging populations projected to generate demand for 40 million new health workers worldwide by 2030, which would represent a doubling of the current global health workforce, without taking measures to prepare and fill the workforce needed, there will be a shortfall, primarily in low- and lower-middle-income countries, of 18 million health workers needed to achieve and sustain universal health coverage, the report states.

Health is a major and growing source of jobs, especially for women who often carry the burden of carrying for sick loved ones without getting monetary compensation.

These recommendations will not only stimulate investing in creating decent health sector jobs, it will maximize women’s economic participation and foster their empowerment through institutionalizing their leadership, addressing gender biases and inequities in education and the health labour market, and tackling gender concerns in health reform processes.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization added that “For too long countries have seen health workers as just another cost to be managed, instead of an investment with a triple return for health, economic growth and global health security.”


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