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New technology strengthens Africa's health workforce

19 February 2010 -- This episode focuses on how new technology is helping to strengthen Africa's health workforce to address the enormous public health challenges there.

Transcript of the podcast

Joel Schaefer: You're listening to the WHO podcast and my name is Joel Schaefer. This episode focuses on how new technology is helping to strengthen Africa's health workforce to address the enormous public health challenges there.

At least 57 countries worldwide, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, are grappling with a crisis shortage in their health workforce. Africa has the world's highest rates of HIV and malaria, and the greatest incidence of mother and child mortality. Not having enough well-trained health care workers and managers compounds this further.

Manuel Dayrit: People are the backbone of the health system and worldwide there is a shortage of about four million workers, that means doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians. So 36 countries in Africa are below a critical shortage to deliver essential services. Therefore we need a solution for Africa fast. We need to scale-up their health workforce, all categories, as much as possible. In order to do that, distance learning, working with educational institutions in Africa is one, but only one, possible solution in which to do this.

Joel Schaefer: That was Manuel Dayrit, Director of the Human Resources for Health department at WHO. Distance learning is a logical, low-cost and realistic ways to deal with the health worker shortage. To help African countries respond to this crisis, WHO and its partners are working with educational institutions to deliver a Masters Degree in Health Workforce Development. The aim: to equip health managers so they can manage and plan better so people receive the health care they need.

The first consortium, led by the University of the Western Cape, School of Public Health in South Africa, was launched in June 2009, with institutions in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Rwanda. Fifteen students began their studies in 2009 and are expected to graduate in 2012. A second consortium for Francophone Africa, led by the University of Geneva in Switzerland, was launched in Geneva this week. Professor Jean-Louis Carpentier, Dean of the University's Faculty of Medicine, explains how the programme is run.

Professor Jean-Louis Carpentier: The key ingredient of success of the new Masters Degree Programme will be effective distance learning since 90% of this programme is essentially based on electronic learning.

It will profit from the interactive e-platform developed within the framework of the Master of Advanced Studies in Public Health with the support of the International Organisation of La Francophonie and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. This teaching programme, based on the telemedicine approach, covers a broad range of medical issues (from health management to bioinformatics) and has been successfully implemented, for many years now, within a dense network of teaching hospitals and medical schools in French-speaking countries.

Joel Schaefer: Dr Melence Gatsinda, Director of the Kabaya District Hospital in Rwanda, is one of the students who will graduate in 2012. He tells us how his hospital will benefit from the training.

Dr Melence Gatsinda: I will be able to improve the quality of service and quality of care in my field using qualified motivated personnel. I think, after completing this programme, I will emphasize the training of managers, also reinforce in-service training, also improve research in the field and also I will try to motivate my personnel.

Joel Schaefer: That's all for this episode of the WHO podcast. Thanks for listening. If you would like further information about the Masters Degree in Health Workforce Development, please see the links on the transcript page of this podcast.

For the World Health Organization, this is Joel Schaefer in Geneva.

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