A new World Health Organization report “A universal truth: No health without a workforce” recently revealed that the world is currently short of 7.2 million global health workers. By 2035, the number could nearly double to 12.9 million.
This could have a devastating effect on countries in development where medical education and training are not readily available. For example, the report cites that in the 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, only 168 medical schools exist. 11 of those countries have no medical schools and 24 countries have no more than one medical school.
The recent shortage in the global health workforce is attributed to an aging, retiring generation of health workers with the younger generation disinterested in the field, dropping out of the study or not receiving proper training.
The WHO provided strategies to ameliorate the shortage from growing:
1. Increased political and technical leadership in countries to support long-term human resource development efforts.
2. Collection of reliable data and strengthening human resource for health databases.
3. Maximizing the role of mid-level and community health workers to make frontline health services more accessible and acceptable.
4. Retention of health workers in countries where the deficits are most acute and improving the balance of the distribution of health workers geographically.
5. Providing mechanisms for the voice, rights and responsibilities of health workers in the development and implementation of policies and strategies towards universal health coverage.
The demand for global health workers eclipses the current numbers and interest that exists now. Doctors are not the only personnel needed; there is a dire need for health technicians and nurses. A career in global health is the perfect combination of the health sciences, the passion for humanitarianism, a concern for social inequality and a genuine interest and respect for hundreds of cultures around the world. United States universities would do well to market and promote the global health major and programs alongside pre-medical and other pre-health tracks.
– Malika Gumpangkum