MDG Momentum – 500 days to the MDGs

On 18 August, the United Nations and its partners worldwide will observe the 500 day mark to the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are the most successful global anti-poverty push in history. Governments, international organizations and civil society groups around the world have helped to cut in half the world’s extreme poverty rate. Fewer mothers and children are dying. The world continues to fight killer diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. There are NOW, 500 days to accelerate action on saving more lives of mothers and children, increasing targeted investments in health and improving access to health services.

The shortage and misdistribution of health workers has been widely recognized a fundamental constraint to the achievement of the MDGs. While sketchy progress has been made by several countries in improving their health workforces, access to a skilled health worker is still not universal and this will take many more years to resolve. We are, however, far better informed of the potential solutions to transform the global health worker landscape.

The world's nations have acknowledged the global dimension and complexities of the health workforce crisis and the interconnected nature of both the problems and the solutions necessary for the achievement of universal health coverage. The 67th World Health Assembly (May 2014) mandated the WHO to develop a forward-looking health workforce strategy, responsive to the unprecedented societal, demographic and epidemiologic changes that the world is currently facing. The Recife Political Declaration adopted by the 67th World Health Assembly recognizes the centrality of human resources for health in the drive towards universal health coverage. It commits governments to creating the conditions for the inclusive development of a shared vision with other stakeholders. The human resources for health commitments made by 56 Member States of the WHO, at the Third Global Forum in Human Resources for Health, must be seen as a critical step taken by countries to address the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of their health workforce. The 2014 State of the World Midwifery Report and the Every Newborn Action Plan set a clear way forward for improving maternal health by encouraging governments to allocate adequate resources for maternal and newborn health services within national health sector plans. They also call for the education, training and retention of midwives and related health personnel to ensure high quality skilled maternity care to vulnerable populations.

Universal access to a fit-for-purpose and fit-to practice health workforce, is central to ending global epidemics and preventing maternal, newborn and child deaths. This vision must be fully incorporated into the priorities and obligations of the post-2015 development framework, alongside the multisectoral actions and investments necessary for the health and well-being of populations.

There is a continued need for us to demonstrate, through evidence-based messages, the value of investing in the health workforce. On this MDG Momentum milestone, WHO pledges continued technical support to help countries develop and strengthen their health workforce, including the midwifery workforce as a critical intervention to save the lives of women and babies. The Global Health Workforce Alliance takes the opportunity to encourage its members and partners around the world to accelerate their efforts in advocating for health workers, ensuring that they have the tools they need to better serve their communities.