History of the Alliance

A trainee nurse is checking patients in hospital
Mohammad Rakibul Hasan, 2007
A trainee nurse checks patients in hospital

Dramatic shortages in the health workforce had long been identified as one of the most critical constraints faced by health institutions around the world and to the achievement of international health and development goals. And yet the issue remained neglected for decades, as the shortages worsened. What was missing? A global focal point, a partnership which could be the global advocating voice on the issue , draw together the major stakeholders from all sectors – governments, civil society, international and regional institutions, professional associations, academia and the private sector and work to combine the key components of the issue – health, but also labour, management, governance, finance, education, research, data collection and planning. The Global Health Workforce Alliance was created in May 2006 as the global focal point - the 'joint platform' for consolidated action on the health workforce crisis.

The Alliance's beginnings are anchored in prior work and investigation. The report of the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI) on Human Resources for Health (HRH), supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, launched in 2002, brought together 100 health professionals and experts from academia, countries and international agencies to examine the problem in greater depth was published in 2004 succeeded in shining the torch in the crisis. This was concurrent with the series of High-Level Fora on Health MDGs which provided further impetus. There were three consecutive annual World Health Assembly resolutions calling for international action to resolve the crisis. The World Health Report 2006 – Working Together for Health focused on human resources for health providing a detailed technical data and calling for a decade of action to be led by an alliance of stakeholders.

The decision to create a new global partnership - the Alliance - to address the health workforce crisis was taken during a Consultation held in Oslo in February 2005, where a special technical working group was formed. Soon after, WHO former Director-General Dr LEE Jong-wook appointed Dr Francis Omaswa, from Uganda, as Special Advisor to the Director-General on HRH and invited him to come to WHO headquarters in Geneva to set up the Alliance. The Director-General also appointed Dr Lincoln Chen, one of the JLI’s lead experts and head of the Technical Working Group, as his Special Envoy on HRH.

One of the first perceived needs was to create regional bodies dedicated to health workforce issues. In July 2005, the Technical Working Group and WHO held a meeting in Brazzaville which laid the groundwork for the African Platform on HRH and the Observatory. A month later, a similar meeting was held in Bangkok, which lead to the official launch of the Asia-Pacific Action Alliance on Human Resources for Health (AAAH) in October 2006.

During the winter of 2005-2006, work started on the Strategic Plan of what would become the Global Health Workforce Alliance (The Alliance). The Working Group met in January 2006 to put final touches on it and gear up for the launch of the Alliance later in the year. In Lusaka, in April 2006, a sub-regional meeting on HRH was held, convened by the TWG, just prior to the launch of the World Health Report 2006 – Working together for health, which took place on World Health Day. The Report was focused on the HRH crisis and has served as the scientific basis for GHWA’s work ever since.

The Alliance was officially launched on 25 May 2006, during the 59th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

Key documents and reports

Related WHO resolutions

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