Feature story

Addressing the health worker shortage crisis

08 January 2008

20080108_nurse_200x140.jpgAt least 57 countries have a crisis shortage of health workers; 36 of those are in Africa. Photo credits: UNAIDS

One of the major constraints to addressing both the AIDS epidemic and global access to essential health care services is the serious shortage of healthcare workers. WHO, UNAIDS and the US President’s Emergency Pan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are launching innovative new guidelines to help strengthen health systems through ‘task shifting’ among the health workforce, at the first ever Global Conference on Task Shifting being held in Addis Ababa from 8-10 January 2008.

‘Task shifting’ is the name given to a process of delegation whereby tasks are moved, where appropriate, to less specialized health workers. By reorganizing the workforce in this way, task shifting presents a viable solution for improving health care coverage by making more efficient use of the human resources already available and by quickly increasing capacity while training and retention programmes are expanded. Several countries are already using task shifting to strengthen their health systems and scale up access to AIDS treatment and care.

The Global Conference on Task Shifting will convene health ministers and other senior government officials, opinion leaders, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations from both industrialized and resource-constrained countries.

Read more on the conference on WHO’s web site