WHO Holds 72nd Annual World Health Assembly

Scarcity of Health Workers Cited


Provided by the World Health Organization

BY ALLISON KOZICHAROW; EDITED BY BERNICE BORN

The 72nd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA72) took place this week in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference’s main function is to determine the policies of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHA72’s 2019 theme is “Universal Health Coverage: Leaving No One Behind.”

 

In his opening address, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said that “[S]trong primary health care depends on having a strong health workforce, working in teams. Doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians, community health workers — they all have a role to play. But the world is currently facing a shortfall of 18 million health workers.”

 

“[S]trong primary health care depends on having a strong health workforce, working in teams. Doctors, nurses, midwives, laboratory technicians, community health workers — they all have a role to play. But the world is currently facing a shortfall of 18 million health workers.”
— Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
WHO Director-General

WA72 convened delegates from WHO’s Member States and adopted a new global strategy on health, environment and climate change and committed to invest in safe water, sanitation and hygiene services in health facilities. Top priorities included the fight against antibiotic resistance, the importance of partnerships, patient safety and access to medicines.

 

Also, the WHA72 approved the 11th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases, which in the first completely digital version delivers health statistics on humans from birth to death and covering their every possible injury or disease. These data are coded and provide a common vocabulary for recording, reporting and monitoring health problems.

 

In his closing remarks, Dr. Ghebreyesus said, “Our vision is a world in which people do not suffer and die simply because they are poor. Our vision is a world in which the healthy choice is the easy choice. Our vision is a world in which polio is eradicated; neglected tropical diseases are no longer neglected; the epidemics of TB, HIV and malaria are ended; maternal and child mortality are reduced; primary health care is strengthened, and the tobacco industry goes out of business because no one wants its products.”

 

WiRED International believes that community health workers are key to this vision, and, when trained about good health practices, can promote and improve the overall health of underserved communities. To this end, WiRED is developing a curriculum to train these workers. Later this year, the computer-based program will be distributed in four locations and tested for its effectiveness in training community health workers on a wide variety of skills.

 

 

WiRED’s Community Health Worker Training Program


Physician density varies widely among countries, with around 500 doctors per 100,000 people at the high end and 3 per 100,000 at the low end. The lowest physician counts are usually found in the poorest regions of Africa, parts of the Middle East, South Asia and segments of Latin America. With doctors and nurses absent or scarce, people are left alone to heal the sick, deliver children and address chronic illnesses, all with skills uninformed by effective medical practices.

 

CHW services are wide and varied and differ from place to place. A lingering problem is how to train CHWs with a standard curriculum while adapting to local differences in health conditions, cultural norms, government requirements and resource availability.

 

We are now developing the curriculum and we will soon research a comprehensive CHW training program for low-resource communities. It will provide an adaptable CHW training program that offers a core curriculum augmented by tools to meet local needs. Further, it will provide a continuing health education program, enabling CHWs to stay abreast of current trends and to remain informed if outbreaks should occur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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