Task Force on Global Health Worker Shortage Holds First Meeting

An international task force met for the first time March 13 in Geneva, Switzerland to tackle the global shortage of health workers. The World Health Organization says a shortfall of 4.3 million health workers exists worldwide, including more than 1 million in Africa. "The simple fact is that the world needs many more health workers," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general. "The world faces global as well as local threats to health. Infectious diseases have staged a dramatic comeback and chronic diseases are on the rise. We cannot improve people's health without staff to deliver health care."

The task force is chaired by Lord Nigel Crisp, former chief executive of the National Health Service in England, and Bience Gawanas, the African Union commissioner for Social Affairs; it includes two African ministers of Health, Dr. Stephen Mallinga of Uganda and Marjorie Ngaunje of Malawi, and representatives of Merck & Co., the Gates Foundation, the International Council of Nurses, and Brazil's Ministry of Health. They'll work to increase investment in educating and training health workers in developing countries by raising awareness of the problem, WHO said.

The task force will present initial recommendations this fall to the Global Health Workforce Alliance. GHWA already has grants from countries such as Canada, France, Ireland, Norway, and the United Kingdom, which has promised $1.9 million in a two-year period.

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