Three takeaways from the 72nd World Health Assembly
The World Health Assembly provided an important opportunity for members of the Health Workers for All coalition to connect, strategise and engage in joint advocacy. On the side-lines of the proceedings, members of the Coalition found the opportunity for a short meet-and–greet (pictured) and reflect on the past and future of the Coalition, as well as participate in key Human Resources for Health (HRH)-related side events and bilateral meetings. Specifically, the Coalition welcomes the announcement of the appointment of Nobel Prize laureate and former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as goodwill ambassador for the health workforce. Three key takeaways were identified for future action and focus:
Addressing the 18 million shortfall
The first takeaway is the increasing urgency to find solutions to address the 18 million shortfall of healthcare workers. In this space, the Coalition seeks to advocate better workforce planning, safeguards for decent working conditions for all healthcare workers and controlled ethical international recruitment. Solidarity and support from high-income countries to low- and lower middle-income countries that have limited fiscal space is important here. One area of focus for the Coalition is influencing the Political Declaration on the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC to be inclusive of health workforce issues.
Evaluating the WHO Global Code of Practice
The second takeaway is the observation of an increase of reporting on the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, both among member states (80 reports submitted) as well as non-state actors, signalling an increased commitment to the process. Over 2018, the Coalition worked with WHO to urge civil society organisations worldwide to submit independent stakeholders reports. The Code will undergo a review of its effectiveness and relevance this year. The Coalition will be engaged in the review through two of its members: Wemos and ACHEST, bringing in reflections and perceptions of the wider coalition.
Community health workers
The final takeaway is that, for the first time ever, a resolution was passed on community healthcare workers. It recognises their important role in delivering primary healthcare and the need to integrate them better in the health system, including through training, certification, and remuneration. The Coalition supports this position and affirms that we need a mix of healthcare workers in a range of cadres to ensure access to quality services for everyone. There is a continuing need to consider the balance between the cadres in both jobs and resource allocation and see to it that an emphasis on one cadre does not lead to competition between cadres in a context of severe overall shortages. The Coalition will continue to advocate investments in the health workforce, including community health workers and hold both governments and donors to account.