The Global Health Workforce – Pathways to Health,
Irish Forum for Global Health Conference Statement, Dublin, 2-3 February 2012
The Irish Forum for Global Health seeks to contribute to global health, with a focus on the needs of low income countries, through networking and collaborating actions by the Irish global health community and its partners. The 2012 Dublin conference was on the theme of the Global Health Workforce, recognising that the critical shortage of skilled health personnel is one of the greatest global health challenges today.
The conference discussed the current global health workforce challenges and reflected on experiences and lessons learned from research and practice by Irish and international practitioners, NGOs, researchers, government agencies and the private sector, which can inform responses in Ireland and other countries.
Conference participants are committed to the principles of the 2008 Kampala Declaration and the vision of the Second Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Bangkok in 2011 that: ‘All people, everywhere, shall have access to a skilled, motivated and supported health worker within a robust health system.’
The conference also discussed the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel and its implications for countries, including Ireland, in relation to better workforce planning, recruitment and retention, and to partnerships for strengthening health workforce capacity.
Ireland’s membership of the European ESTHER Alliance was announced at the conference and will facilitate new institutional partnerships for building health workforce capacity.
The Conference participants call for countries and organisations to intensify action on the following policy priorities:
Investment in the Health Workforce
- All development partners should continue to invest in the health workforce as a key element of strengthening national health systems. They should provide coordinated support to middle and low income countries and align to their national health plans, priorities and employment practices.
- Middle and low income countries should allocate sufficient resources from their domestic budgets to adequately staff their health systems, ensuring that external support is complementary and additional; and use these resources efficiently.
- Scale up North-South institutional partnerships for human resource training, capacity building and delivery of services; based on sustainable development, strong governance and health outcomes.
- Promote South-South partnerships, including in-country partnerships between community level organisations and national training and research institutions.
- Strengthen collaboration across all sectors involved in global health in Ireland, including policy makers, researchers, practitioners and the private sector.
Education and training
- All countries, including Ireland, should invest in health worker training to satisfy their domestic health care needs and develop coherent workforce plans.
- Strengthen the capacity of domestic health training institutions to meet basic and specialised training needs in a sustainable way.
- Increase distance learning approaches so personnel can remain in their countries and communities.
Community Based Responses
- Expand the roles of community health volunteers, traditional practitioners, and other non-formal health workers and organisations; and integrate them into national human resource plans.
- Recognise the role affected population groups (e.g. people living with HIV, marginalised women) can play in promoting and supporting healthy communities and empower them to contribute to better health outcomes in their communities.
- Provide appropriate training, supervision and remuneration to all community level workers and increase coverage to ensure full access to essential services at community level.
- Increase investment in training, deployment, motivation and career development of mid-level cadres, and non-physician clinicians, recognising that they are the mainstay of health services delivery in many resource-poor settings.
Health Worker Motivation and Retention
- Adopt strategies to attract and retain health workers with appropriate skills mix in rural and under-served areas.
- Develop a gender-balanced workforce to ensure the health system is responsive to populations’ needs and expectations.
- Improve working environments and employment conditions for healthcare workers, with attention to workload, psycho-social and health support, and opportunities for career progression. Address both financial and non-financial incentives, including negative effects of remunerative and other work package inequities between international and local health workers.
- Uphold the rights of health workers in all countries to practice in the best interests of patients without fear of sanction or imprisonment.
- Develop capacity at national, district and facility levels in human resources leadership, information systems, supervision, and financial management and reporting.
Ethical Recruitment and Migration of Health Personnel
- Ireland should fulfil its responsibilities in implementing the WHO Code on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.
- Commit to a policy of national health workforce self sufficiency
- Follow ethical principles when recruiting from other countries
- Ensure equal treatment for migrant health workers
- Increase initiatives to strengthen the workforce in countries with critical shortages of health personnel
- Strengthen workforce planning capacity in Ireland, supported by a system to provide real time information on health worker distributions, and inward and outward flows.
Research, Technology and Innovation
- Strengthen national health research systems and ensure North-South partnerships for human resources for health research involve policy makers from the South and are based on local needs.
- Research and evaluate the role of new technologies to enhance education, training and management of health personnel.
- Work with the IT and mobile phone sectors in Ireland to advocate for scaling up innovations that respond to health needs with appropriate, low cost, sustainable, and culturally sensitive solutions.
Irish Forum for Global Health online at: www.globalhealth.ie