New report by Countdown to 2015 highlights the opportunity for forward action on HRH in Countdown countries

A new report launched by Countdown to 2015 - "Fulfilling the Health Agenda for Women and Children: The 2014 Report"- highlights that fewer than half of the Countdown countries will achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4, and very few will achieve MDG 5, as the deadline for the MDGs approaches, 18 months from now. The report documents important progress and obstacles towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5 to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, in 75 countries (which represent 95% of all global maternal and child deaths). The report cites severe health workforce shortages as limiting some countries’ ability to provide high-quality care to women and children.

The report states that only seven Countdown countries (Botswana, Egypt, Gabon, India, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Viet Nam) meet or exceed the threshold of 23 skilled health professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives) per 10,000 population needed to achieve coverage of essential interventions. The good news, however, is that most of the countries affected by shortages with available data are reporting increases in the absolute numbers and densities of doctors, nurses and midwives, as also highlighted in the report “A Universal Truth – No Health Without A Workforce” presented at the Third Global Forum. Many countries are introducing strategies to improve their health workforce, by delegating and sharing tasks across various categories of health care professionals and taking into account population dynamics when planning for human resource needs, as it is necessary to ensure that the health workforce expansions keeps pace with increasing demands due to population growth.

Renewed approaches to the health workforce agenda are critical for moving towards universal health coverage. We require a workforce that is fit for purpose, able to respond to and deliver high –quality care. This is a challenge for all countries alike, not only low- and middle-income countries, said Jim Campbell, incoming Executive Director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance. The updated evidence from the Countdown Report confirms the pressing need and an opportunity for forward action on HRH, he added.

The report calls the global health community to redouble efforts and take concerted action in key areas where progress is possible, notably in:

  • Ensuring that there are adequately trained, high-quality, skilled health care workers equipped and available with the supplies needed to provide high-quality care before, during and after pregnancy
  • Increasing access to care around the time of birth
  • Helping countries facing rapid population growth to develop pioneering approaches to increase health workforce production, deployment and retention
  • Addressing the infectious diseases, especially pneumonia and diarrhoea, and ensuring access to effective treatments, appropriate nutrition, safe water and adequate sanitation facilities.

The 2014 Countdown Report was launched to coincide with the PMNCH Partners Forum, taking place in South Africa. Updated country profiles of 75 Countdown countries are published together with the report.