Is World Lacking HealthCare Workers?

Changing the Way for Health Financing

Is the world having enough health workers to meet the target for universal health coverage? No is the answer as pert a recent study that says that more than 43 million additional health workers are needed to meet the targets.
Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and North Africa and the Middle East have the largest gaps, according to a new peer-reviewed study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (CHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine that was published today in The Lancet.
Senior author and Director of Health Systems at IHME Dr. Rafael Lozano noted that these are the most comprehensive estimates to date of the global health care workforce. The author noted that the data would help countries plan for the future.


The researchers mainly looked at shortages in four categories: physicians, nurses and midwives, dental personnel, and pharmaceutical personnel. In 2019 more than 150 countries had shortages of physicians and more than 150 had shortages of nurse and midwives. When comparing present levels of health care workers to the minimum levels needed to meet a target score of 80 on the universal health coverage (UH) effective service coverage index, the authors estimated a shortage of more than 43 million health care workers. This includes 30.6 million nurses and midwives and 6.4 million physicians.
Lead author and Assistant Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME .Dr. Annie Haakenstad said; “We found that the density of health care workers is strongly related to a nation’s level of social and economic development.”


The study comes out with more than a 10-fold difference in the density of health care workers across and within regions in 2019. Densities ranged from 12.9 physicians for every 10,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa to 38.3 per 10,000 in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Cuba also stood out, with a density of 84.4 per 10,000 compared to 2.1 in Haiti. Similar disparities were seen among nurses and midwives, with a density of 152.3 per 10,000 in Australasia compared to 37.4 per 10,000 in Southern Latin America. Despite steady increases in the health care workforce between 1990 and 2019, substantial gaps persisted.
The study notes several factors for the shortage including out-migration of health workers, war and political unrest, violence against health care workers, and insufficient incentives for training and retention.


In the study, the researchers also stress that the findings show how ill prepared the world was when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. . The authors also note that there is still much to learn about the impact of the pandemic on the health workforce. This includes gender dynamics in human resources for health (HRH) and how the departure of women from formal employment for care-taking duties at home may have depleted the health workforce, among other stressors on HRH during the pandemic.


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