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Walking the Walk – Human Resources for Health on UHC Day

Published: 13.12.2017
Walking the Walk – Human Resources for Health on UHC Day

IAPB is a strong believer and advocate for Universal Health Coverage and supporter of UHCDay. We must all work to ensure that people have access to health services including eye health (all the way from promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care) without having to make horrific choices, such as which child/family member gets help if any, and/ or the family becoming impoverished.

Human Resources for Health (HRH) is the backbone of health systems, and Universal Health Coverage won’t be achievable without addressing HRH head on. To expand service, to increase coverage and to especially reach those in remote communities or those most marginalised, massive increases in the health workforce globally are crucial. Investments are needed to ensure HRH is fit-for-purpose and comprehensive. It is essential that all of us working in health take the responsibility to make this a reality.

These messages were loud and clear at the recent 4th Global Human Resources for Health Forum reverberating around the Royal Dublin Society Library. HRH is an important focus of IAPB’s work. Ronnie Graham, previously IAPB’s Director for HRH in Africa, and I represented IAPB at this forum. This was Ronnie’s fourth forum and my first; we left with a sense of a lot of hard work ahead, coupled with optimism. The week was inspiringly led by the Global Health Workforce Network’s (GHWN) Jim Campbell and his team and with a massive turnout from Africa where the situation is stark (plus, set against a health workforce strike in Uganda).

A quick snapshot of the essential issues: Pre-service training is the main way that we will progress. There is also a shortage of jobs. We need to ensure the right skillsets, integrated care, appropriately distributed, people-centred fit-for-purpose HRH. Approaches are fragmented; community health workers need to be part of the team. There is a need for a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach. Investment and good evidence formed planning are key.

Cartoon HRH

As obvious as it is that the world needs UHC it is obvious that to achieve it we need the right workforce within a strengthened health system. What’s been the stumbling block? Where is the political will? Even an early draft of the WHO 13th General Programme of Work barely mentions HRH.

As Francis Omaswa, from the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) called for: let’s undo some macroeconomic thinking – health workers are not a consumptive cost but an economic investment. Investment in HRH is not adequate because of this thinking. Or as Dr Agnés Soucat, Director for Health Systems, Governance and Financing at the WHO put the case: investment in the health workforce is ultimately a political choice in a period of fiscal growth and priority setting.

Walking the talk cartoon

Those of us in the eye health and wider health community must repeatedly knock on doors, share our experience, our evidence, our collective messages in partnership to get ministries of health, finance and other essential stakeholders to prioritise HRH and UHC. We must ensure progress occurs in a manner that is rights-based, integrated, and responsive to the needs of all population groups and the burden of disease in countries. We must all rise up to ensure the availability of the “right workforce” so that people can enjoy their right to health including eye health this #UHCday. Only by doing this will we get governments to walk the walk and will the historic change that everyone deserves occur.

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