Category Archives: Global Health

Health Care Workforce Shortage=Failure to Meet MDGs


Health workers in Honduras

Health workers in Honduras. Photo by Olivier Asselin

Did you know 83 countries do not have enough health workers to meet the World Health Organization’s minimum standard to provide basic health services (No Health Without a Workforce, 2013)? The importance of the health workforce cannot be overstated and without concrete efforts from the international community to strengthen the frontline community of health workers, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and those health goals being outlined for the Post-2015 United Nations Development Agenda, will not be met.

Congressional Briefing Highlight

 Recently, I attended a congressional briefing led by International Medical Corps (IMC) and Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in cooperation with Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dibba F. Edwads and Representative Kristi Noem and Doris O. Matsui. The briefing, titled,“Saving Women’s and Children’s Lives; Strengthening the Health Workforce in Fragile Countries” discussed the needs of the frontline health workers today and highlighted a few examples of programs addressing these gaps successfully.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life, was one program highlighted as a model of best practice.  The program is currently operating in Uganda (a fragile state) and Zambia, and is focused on maternal and child health.  Saving Mothers, Giving Life pays special attention to the needs of individual health care providers by offering training and mentoring services to improve contact with patients and grow the workforce of community health workers in these cities.  The program also focused on the health facilities themselves, working to improve access to health services overall.  By focusing on the health workforce and the health workplace, this program has seen a 30% reduction in maternal mortality in both countries. The multitude of public and private partnerships involved has also been an innovative piece to the model of this program design worth noting.  A few other “best practice models” were highlighted at this briefing, including examples from other fragile states (ie: Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan), but the resounding message from all examples was clear: the importance of individual health workers’ needs and the need for infrastructure to support their endeavors improves health outcomes for the community.

Multi-Talented Workforce Easily Overworked

Health workers are a huge asset to improving population health and they often are trained to care for a multitude of ailments (ie: maternal child health care workers can offer services for nutrition needs, routine immunizations, malaria, HIV/AIDs, TB, and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and NTD health workers distributing mass drug administration pills can also distribute malaria nets and vitamin A supplements).  While this integration of health services provided by the health workforce is ideal, often times the health workforce becomes overburdened, or worse, burnt-out. A contributing factor to the overburdening of the health workforce is the chronic health workers shortage. It will be no surprise when the MDGs are not met given the current health workforce shortage, an estimated 4.2 million health workers, with 1.5 million needed in Africa alone. However, looking ahead to the UN Post-Development Agenda, increasing the health workforce significantly will be imperative to success.

Health workers are the backbone of a healthy society and without them, health goals of the international community will not be reached.  While World Health Workers Week has come and gone acknowledging the backbone of a health society should be a constant effort.

Follow #healthworkerscount @MSHHealthImpact @IMC_Worldwide and @USAIDGH for more on this topic.

Sabin Celebrates 20 Years of Operations with a Star-Studded Event



This post originally appeared on the Sabin Vaccine Institute blog.

In celebration of twenty years since its founding, the Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) will bring together top leaders in the global health community for its 20th Anniversary Scientific Symposium on Friday, April 25 in Washington, DC.

The program will include an impressive lineup of speakers including Dr. Seth Berkley (GAVI Alliance); Dr. Margaret Chan (WHO); Dr. Mickey Chopra (UNICEF); Dr. Carissa Etienne (PAHO); Dr. Julio Frenk (Harvard University); Dr. Julie Gerberding (Merck Vaccines and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations); Dr. Lance Gordon (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); and Dr. Mahendra Suhardono (Biofarma and the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network).  On behalf of Sabin’s vaccine leadership, President Dr. Peter Hotez and Executive Vice President Dr. Ciro de Quadros will also make remarks at the event.

By bringing together a diverse group of scientists, advocates and global health experts, Sabin will foster a thought-provoking discussion about best practices, lessons learned and prospects for the future of global health.  With executive leadership from the NGO community, multilateral institutions, pharmaceutical industry, and academia, attendees will hear how stakeholders from various vantage points – from the NGO, private and public sectors – are uniquely positioned to address pressing global health challenges across the world.

This event is open to the public; to register, please visit the event registration page.

World Health Day: The neglected diseases that plague 1 in 6

WHDToday is World Health Day, and the global community is calling attention to the immense harm caused by diseases spread by  mosquitoes, sand flies and snails — also referred to as vector-borne diseases.

As part of this effort, Global Network managing director, Neeraj Mistry, highlighted the debilitating effect of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in a CNN editorial.

“Human history is closely linked to diseases carried by vectors such as the sand flies at the heart of blinding and disfiguring diseases referenced during biblical times, fleas responsible for bubonic plague in Medieval Europe, and the mosquitoes that carry one of today’s most well-known diseases, malaria.

What most people don’t know, however, is that there are several other vector-borne diseases that have a staggering impact on the world’s poorest people. Called neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, this group of parasitic and bacterial infections plagues one in six people worldwide, including more than 500 million children.”

To read the full editorial, click here. You can spread the word on Twitter by using the hashtags #WorldHealthDay and #JustOneBite.


New Support for NTDs to Drive Progress Forward


photo 1NTDs

This afternoon, global health leaders convened in Paris to discuss progress made in the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The event, titled Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases: A Conversation on Progress, coincided with the release of a new report highlighting gains over the past two years.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization; Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and several other expert panelists including Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi;  Dr. Onésime Ndayishimiye, National Director of Burundi’s Neglected Tropical Disease & Blindness Control Program; and French Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Hon. Marisol Touraine, announced deepened commitments for efforts to control and eliminate the most common NTDs by 2020 — including a $120 million pledge from the World Bank, a new collaboration to combat soil-transmitted helminthes (STH) and accelerated research and development efforts lead by pharmaceutical companies in conjunction with nonprofits.

The broad reach and attention of today’s event signals the fact that controlling and eliminating NTDs is embraced by a global community of national leaders, policy makers and donors. In addition, there is broad recognition that addressing NTDs is a crucial component of eliminating poverty and achieving development goals.

Echoing this fact, Dr. Tim Evans, World Bank Director of Health, Nutrition and Population stated during the event that NTDs are major constraints to development and addressing them will boost shared prosperity.

As detailed in the Uniting to Combat NTDs report and score card, progress on NTDs has accelerated quickly over the past two years. Pharmaceutical companies are now meeting 100 percent of requests for drugs, and endemic countries taking ownership of NTD programs. To date, 74 countries – roughly two-thirds of all NTD-endemic countries – have now developed national plans to help guide their control and elimination efforts.

Of particular note, Nigeria and Ethiopia, two countries with high NTD burdens, made national commitments to end NTDs. Nigeria launched its master NTD plan in February with the goal of providing treatment to more than 60 million people annually over the next five years. Ethiopia, the country with the highest trachoma burden, launched its national plan in June 2013. Success in Nigeria and Ethiopia would significantly decrease the global burden of NTDs worldwide.

Pages from NTD Report Final (sm)These positive gains are cause for optimism, but challenges still remain. While the chart to the left (click to view larger) shows a steady increase in drug donation and delivery, only 36 percent of people in need received all the drugs they needed in 2012. Mobilizing more financial resources to support program implementation, doing more to leverage the value of donated drugs and increasing collaboration across sectors are just a few ways the global community can further accelerate progress.

While donors, pharmaceuticals and NGOs are an integral part of the solution, endemic countries will drive progress forward by continuing to develop, own and implement their programs in a sustainable way.

“I always believe in country ownership,” Dr. Margaret Chan said. “We’re here to support your efforts.”

We applaud the work done by endemic countries, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, multilateral organizations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and look forward to the path towards 2020.

Click to view the event video and full report.