Members and partners of the Alliance accelerate global momentum for human resources for health and universal health coverage at the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly

Participants at the 66th World Health Assembly side event titled ‘Human Resources for Health in the context of Universal Health Coverage’
Participants built momentum ahead of the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for health.

The sixty-sixth session of the World Health Assembly is currently taking place in Geneva during 20–28 May. This year, under the agenda item ‘Promoting health through the life course,’ the Assembly is focusing on the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and health in the post-2015 development agenda. The Global Health Workforce Alliance (the Alliance) has its booth onsite showcasing its work on a number of issues.

On the first day of the Assembly, the Alliance teamed up with the Permanent Mission of Brazil, the Permanent Mission of Belgium, and the World Health Organization to organize a side event titled ‘Human Resources for Health in the context of Universal Health Coverage’ – building momentum ahead of the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for health.

Honorable Jarbos Barbosa, Secretary of Health of Brazil and Honorable Laurette Onkelinx, Deputy Prime Minister of Health and Social Affairs of Belgium, who opened the event, emphasized the importance of HRH as a core determinant to attaining improved health outcomes. Dr Mozart Sales, Secretary of Labour and Education for Human Resources at the Ministry of Health of Brazil, briefed the audience on the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, which is scheduled to take place from 10–13 November in Recife, Brazil. Initially, Dr Sales explained why the Government of Brazil is interested in hosting the Forum – the Brazilian Administration is currently introducing special programs for the nursing and medical professions as well as working on a series of regulation of the national health workforce to increase the number of health workers in the country. Then, he presented the sub-themes of the Forum and how these will be addressed during high level roundtables discussions and parallel track sessions. He also spoke of securing concrete HRH commitments as the major outcome of the Forum. Dr Carissa Etienne, the Regional Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), spoke about the interconnectedness between HRH and UHC. She said that in order to achieve ‘quality primary care at a cost that people can afford,’ there is a need to look at the skill-mix and distribution of the health workforce alongside addressing the issues of retention and incentives for health workers; and these should be the responsibilities of governments.

In the last part of the event, a lively and engaging panel discussion – ‘Health workforce competencies: time to think out-of-the-box’ – explored innovative solutions to the HRH crisis. Dr Josep Figueras, Director of the European Observatory for Health Systems and Polices, moderated the debate. Mme. Teresa Haller, Treasurer for the American Nurses Association, remarked that the issue is not to replace physicians but rather to increase access to health care. One way of doing so is through nurse-managed health centres, which are health facilities directed by nurses in partnership with the communities that they serve. In the United States, there are around 200 of this type of clinics. She revealed how evidence shows that these centers are able to reach underserved populations, have higher rates of patient retention and generic medication fills as well as lower rates of hospitalizations than other health providers. Dr Timothy Evans of the BRAC University stressed the importance of universities in leading efforts to address health workforce shortages and better understand the bigger picture of global health.

Dr Wim Van Lerberghe of the Universidaded Nova de Lisboa and Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy Director General National Department of Health South Africa, emphasized how efforts to scale up health workforce must increase not only the quantity but also the quality and relevance of the providers of the future if they are to meet population health needs.

The event was attended in full capacity and was a resounding success.