5 ways to bridge the global health worker shortage

health worker

(Ali Yahya, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Shobana Kamineni, Executive Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited, Chairperson, Apollo Munich Health Insurance


A shortage of health workers is pervasive across most countries – and the most worrying aspect is that this gap is increasing. Aggravating the issue is the unmet need for upskilling and reskilling that new disease patterns and emerging technology in healthcare continuously demand.

This shortfall is captured by the following statistics:

• A Global Burden of Disease Study (2017) estimates that only half of all countries have the requisite health workforce required to deliver quality healthcare services, critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). For instance, the US requires 1 million nurses and Japan 2.5 million by 2020 and 2025 respectively, and India faces a shortage of over 3.9 million doctors and nurses.

• The global health workforce is unevenly and inequitably distributed. The WHO region of the Americas, with 10% of the global burden of disease, has 37% of the world’s health workforce, whereas the African region, with a 24% disease burden, has only 3% (see graphic below).

Add to this the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and growing geriatric population – these will generate a demand for 40 million additional health workers globally by 2030. This would require doubling our current global health workforce.

This is a formidable target, unless steps to correct the situation are implemented with a sense of urgency. Without timely action, a shortfall of 18 million workers is predicted by 2030, along with a resultant annual cost to healthcare of $500 billion, due to health workforce inefficiency.

It is therefore imperative to address the shortage of healthcare workforce across the gamut – doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, community outreach workers. We must be on a war footing if we are to meet the UHC targets within set timelines.

There is no alternative to investing in human resources for health; sustainable funding models have to be a critical part of the strategy. A report by the High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth reveals return on investment in health at a ratio of 9:1. A further one extra year of average life expectancy has been shown to raise GDP per capita by about 4%.

Addressing the global health workforce shortage has to be a key priority area in national development agendas. Useful steps in a multi-stakeholder participation would include:

1. Strengthening governance grameworks

Setting up strong governance frameworks to guide medical education, health employment, international exchange of medical services, migration of health workers, and innovative partnership models is crucial. Fostering sustainable PPPs would require strengthening of institutional models with high-quality and accessible cross-sectoral inputs, such as finance, education, training, among others.

2. Harnessing technology

The healthcare industry is fast-tracking use of e-health and e-learning techniques, AI, VR simulation and the internet of things to train, upskill and empower health workers. From personalized wearable devices for home-based care, to point of care, drone technology and telemedicine strategies for outreach remote healthcare, all are revolutionizing healthcare delivery. The scaling-up is rapid, based on big data and analytics, and these emerging technologies are also generating more demand for new skills, increasing the potential to employ more in digital healthcare delivery.

A clear roadmap to align technology and the workforce is critical. In India, for instance, the thinktank NITI Aayog, in the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence and Strategy for New India @75, has already set out plans to bring technology and innovation at the core of healthcare & related policy formations, a crucial step for augmenting healthcare resources.

3. Rebalancing healthcare tasks

As per an OECD global survey, 79% of nurses and 76% of doctors were found to be performing tasks for which they were over-qualified. Given the global evidence for the poor distribution of skills, we must rationally re-organize our workforce for effective management of high-burden diseases, particularly NCDs, which are responsible for 71% of the global mortality and, unless addressed, could cost the world $30 trillion by 2030.

Nurses and GPs can be trained with the essential skill set that enables them to perform select live-saving procedures, recognize acute conditions in time, and make referrals to relevant specialists. This will not only reduce high dependency on limited specialists available worldwide, but also reduce cost and time needed to scale up additional workforce.

4. Developing new care models

Health systems designed around hospitals and clinics need to shift focus towards preventive care, and encourage a holistic health approach encompassing all socio-economic determinants of health. New care models should be created, with a “hub and spoke” arrangement of assets, and workforce trained to provide high-quality, community-based, integrated healthcare, focused on disease surveillance, prevention & ambulatory care. This will not just help avoid unnecessary in-patient and emergency room visits, but will also result in better health outcomes for the community at large.

5. Creating a sustainable and gender-balanced workforce

Evidence points towards gender imbalance and disparities in health employment and the medical education system. According to the WHO, globally only 30% of doctors are females and more than 70% of nurses are females. A similar trend is seen in India, where the majority of the nursing workforce is comprised of women, but only 16.8% of allopathic doctors are females. As per ILO data, gender wage gaps are also a cause for concern. We need pro-active steps to create a balanced healthcare workforce that addresses the issue of gender inequity and ensure equal pay for work of equal value, a favorable working environment, and targets investments towards training the female workforce.

Globally, too there needs to be better mapping of healthcare resources to facilitate collaborations in medical education and exchange programs between countries. For instance, several countries have similar course curriculums for nursing; however, cultural aspects sometimes pose problems. For instance, Sweden and India have a similar nursing curriculum, and there is great potential to encourage exchange of nurses, but the potential for exchange is restricted due to linguistic barriers. This can be easily overcome, and more conducive arrangements put in place to facilitate exchange of healthcare workers.

It is time for all stakeholders in healthcare, be it in the domains of policy, medical education, training or financing, to align with each other on specific issues and targets, and implement steps to augment healthcare workforce productivity towards creating a population-centric workforce.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Sassoli: Migration agreement respects fundamental principles of Parliament’s proposal

Guterres: Security Council’s African alliances ‘needed and appreciated more than ever’

Cash-strapped cities must look to private partners

MWC 2016 LIVE: Industry looks to reduce mobile gender gap

Is our brave new world about to burst?

FROM THE FIELD: ‘Harvested’ rainwater saves Tanzanian students from stomach ulcers, typhoid

MEPs spell out priorities for the European Central Bank and on banking union

Yemen: Major UN aid boost for ‘up to 14 million’ as country risks becoming a land of ‘living ghosts’

Towards a European Republic

How technology can help India breathe more easily

Davos participants call for digital trade deal

On flight to sustainable development, ‘leave no country behind’, urges aviation agency

Varna (Bulgaria) awarded European Youth Capital 2017

The dangers of data: why the numbers never tell the full story

Indonesia is buzzing with entrepreneurial spirit. And others in ASEAN aren’t far behind

An Eastern Wind

5 lessons from China on how to drive sustainable growth

We have a chance to build the gender-equal workplaces of the future. Here’s how

European Labour Authority ready to start working in October as decision is taken on new seat

A Monday to watch the final act of a Greek tragedy; will there be catharsis or more fear?

Global Citizen-Volunteer Internships

CDU-SPD agree the terms for EU’s Banking Union

The DNA of the future retail CEO

Could a Digital Silk Road solve the Belt and Road’s sustainability problem?

Ebola in DR Congo: UN chief ‘outraged’ by recent killings of civilians and health workers

How can batteries become more sustainable? This young scientist might have the answer

Christmas spending: Who can afford not to cut?

3 of Jack Ma’s best pieces of advice

Mobile 360 Africa 11-13 July 2017

Brexit kick-off: a historic day for the EU anticlockwise

Guterres underlines climate action urgency, as UN weather agency confirms record global warming

Why the answer to a more sustainable future could lie within the platform economy

Pedal power makes ‘positive impact on climate’, urges UN on World Bicycle Day

China’s lead in the global solar race – at a glance

The Chinese retail revolution is heading west

Erdogan’s electoral win on a ‘me or chaos’ dilemma means trouble for everybody

This brewery is ditching plastic six-pack rings to save marine life

Investing in rural women and girls, ‘essential’ for everyone’s future: UN chief

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

Easing funding woes for UN agency assisting Palestine refugees a ‘wise investment for today and the future’

High unemployment to continue haunting the EU

A young European voice on Grexit: too high a bill and too big a deal!

JADE visits Lithuanian Junior Initiatives

The power of digital tools to transform mental healthcare

Libyan national conference postponed, nearly 500,000 children at ‘direct risk’ from fighting around Tripoli

From social entrepreneurship to systems entrepreneurship: how to create lasting change

Would you let an AI vote for you?

It’s ‘time for concrete action’ says UN chief, welcoming inter-Korean agreement

To my Chinese friend

Austrian Presidency priorities discussed in committees

Do we have to choose between creating jobs and protecting the climate?

5 ways students can graduate fully qualified for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

India is investing more money in solar power than coal for first time

A refugee from Syria cries out: “I’m not just a number!”

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

Camino de Santiago – a global community on our doorstep

Four ways Europe can become a global innovation leader

Three steps to clean up electric vehicle supply chains

A giant marine heatwave has descended on Alaska

Haiti: ‘Laden with challenges’ but also hope, Mission chief tells Security Council

More Stings?

Comments

  1. Thanks for the very inspiring article. Is there any benefit in the introduction of parallel medical training in the form of country-specific medical education by countries placed at the greatest risk by medical brain drain. It has been argued that Africa needs more of foot soldiers in the form of community health workers.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s