Inter-sectoral actions: Health of all is better when sectors work together

December 19, 2017
By Jenny YC Lee, Key Correspondent for the Irish Forum for Global Health


In a roundtable discussion at the 4th Global Forum on HRH, Dr. Tana Wuliji from the WHO shared facts about the pressing issues in health workforce.

If we add up all the shortfall of health workers around the world, the number would be 18 million. This is enormous.

Jobs in the health sector will need to be created between now and 2030 in order to meet the SDG goals. Dr. Wuliji also mentioned that such shortfalls are concentrated in the low- and middle-income countries. Without health workers, we are not going to achieve the SDGs. Without them, we are not going to solve medical issues and foster healthier societies. For countries to thrive, health is fundamental. And improving health workforce should be a global effort.

In low- and middle-income countries especially, populations are getting younger. More and more young people come into society unemployed. There do not seem to be enough jobs for them. On one hand, we have youth unemployment. On the other hand, we have a shortage of health workers. So why not marry these two problems and find solutions? Although the health sector cannot have full control of the labor market, it can come closer to solving youth unemployment IF it works with the labor sector. This is why inter-sectoral actions are necessary!

Sitting in the audience, we listened to valuable experiences from Mozambique, Ethiopia and Myanmar about how inter-sectoral collaborations work in their health systems. Each of these countries has ensured that their ministry of health (MOH) has worked closely with the ministries of finance (MOF), the ministries of labor, and civil services. In Mozambique, the MOH has joint efforts with the MOF to develop an integrated human resource information system. In Ethiopia, inter-sectoral action centers on improving human resource management. In Myanmar, intra-ministry collaboration (between multiple departments in the health sector) is in place and the MOH works closely with non-governmental organizations to involve civil servants.

Inter-sectoral actions in all three countries are successful thus far. But what were some challenges and how did they overcome them? They all agreed that the initial stages of collaborations were difficult, because each sector has its own political agenda and needs to find common grounds with the health sector. These inter-sectoral relationships are a lot like marriage—which needs respect, high levels of commitment, and good partners. Like marriages, all sectors will need patience. The key lessons to success are engaging in collaborations early and continuous communication. Health of all will be better when different sectors work together.


December 1st, 2017

Recently graduated with a BSc. from the University of British Columbia in Canada, Jenny is a young professional working at the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction. As a previous intern at the World Health Organization (WHO), she shares the same collective vision that universal health coverage is an ethical imperative and understands the importance of health workforce as health workers are the core of our health systems.

 Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn and Twitter!


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