Pan American Health Organization plan aims to reduce health worker shortage

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Washington, D.C. — A new plan to expand access to health care by improving healthcare system organization promises to be especially beneficial for Caribbean nations like St. Kitts and Nevis, because of a high rate of health worker migration, according to the 56th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

A new plan of action on Human Action on Human Resources for Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage 2018-2023, seeks to expand access to care by improving the organization of the health system and its working conditions through policies aimed at retaining workers and offering them incentives.

Health authorities from the countries and territories of the Region of the Americas agreed on a new plan to reduce a shortfall of 800,000 health workers needed to meet the current needs of the Region’s health systems.

The plan marks the path for the countries to have the human resources they need in order to meet the worldwide goal of universal health by 2030. The plan also aims to improve the geographical distribution and skills of human resources to reach everyone, everywhere.

“Health workers are the cornerstone of health systems and this shortfall is one of the main obstacles to making strides forward in health,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “The plan offers a road map to combat the scarcity of health workers and also to achieve their equitable distribution and improve their professional quality.”

The plan offers guidelines for countries to develop their policies and plans for human resources for health. It proposes strengthening and consolidating the governance and leadership of health ministries so that they can forecast their present and future needs for health workers and formulate and implement long-term strategies.

It also establishes the need for greater public investment in health, as well as improvements in the jobs and working conditions offered, especially at the first level of care and in rural and underserved areas.

Another of the linchpins of the plan is to strengthen the capacities and skills of human resources through continuing education, since health workers often lack the skills, competencies, and training required to work with the intercultural and gender approach that the population needs.

Finally, the plan proposes that agreements be reached with the education sector to develop professionals in accordance with the needs of the health systems. It proposes that academic accreditation systems should consider scientific and technical competencies, but also social ones, and it calls for development of training plans for priority specialties, including increases in the number of specialists assigned to family and community health.

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