What can be learnt from a decade of action on human resources for health to achieve global health goals? What are the ongoing challenges?

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The last decade has seen an increased recognition of the central role of HRH for achieving national priorities and international goals, such as the MDGs. The World Health Report 2006 was instrumental in raising awareness of the global health workforce crisis. The First Global Forum on HRH held in Kampala in 2008 resulted in the Kampala Declaration and Agenda for Global Action, which served as a roadmap for HRH action. The adoption of the WHO Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel in 2010 has also been an important milestone. For some of the traditional "recipient" countries of migration, mainly in Europe, the Code has contributed to sharpening both analysis and policies regarding migration and recruitment of health workers and health workforce planning and development.

The new progress report A Universal Truth: No Health Without a Workforce examines evidence on the health workforce implications of universal health coverage. It provides an analysis on the most up-to-date information on health workforce availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality (AAAQ) and highlights a forward-looking HRH agenda.

Over the past decade, there has been evidence of progress in HRH development; yet, there remains a range of challenges, including:

  • persisting shortages of health workers, with further shortages are forecasted;
  • the progressive ageing of the health workforce;
  • imbalances in skills –mix combined with an inadequate deployment of mid-level cadres (e.g., advanced practitioners, midwives, nurses and auxiliaries);
  • wide variations in availability and accessibility within countries due to failures to attract and retain health professionals;
  • the increase in health worker availability does not keep pace with population growth difficulties in adapting the content and strategies of education;
  • many countries continue to rely on foreign-trained medical graduates
  • insufficient priority given to performance assessment and quality of care;
  • varying capacity in estimating future needs and designing longer‐term policies;
  • Ineffective HRH information systems.

Addressing these challenges will be vital for achieving and sustaining UHC.