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Just 3 primary healthcare workers for every 10,000 population in India

Sunday 9 April 2006

Special Correspondent

Shortage of 4.3 million workers worldwide: WHO

Big migration of doctors and workers from India Lack of human resource a serious obstacle to achieving health goals

NEW DELHI: There is a shortage of 4.3 million health workers worldwide, particularly in the poorest countries where they are needed the most, according to the World Health Report, 2006 released here on Friday.

Calling upon the countries to invest in their health workforce, a vital part of the health systems, the report says the performance of the health system depends ultimately on improving the knowledge, skills, motivation and availability of human resource.

The report, `Working Together for Health,’ has been brought out by the World Health Organisation.

Plight in sub-Saharan Africa

About 59 million people make up the global health workforce. One in every three of them is employed in the United States and Canada, where more than half the world’s financial resources for health are to be found. Only four in every hundred workers are in sub-Saharan Africa, which has a quarter of the global burden of diseases and less than one per cent of the world’s financial resources.

The WHO’s Southeast Asia region, with a quarter of the world’s population, accounts for only 12 per cent of the global health workforce. On average, there are 29 health service providers per 10,000 population, well below the global figure of 62.

Urban-rural imbalance

The challenges in the region include a shortfall in the number of trained health workers and an imbalance in their distribution, mainly between urban and rural areas. In some countries only about 20 per cent of posts of rural physician are filled, compared to 96 per cent in urban areas.

The availability of workers for primary health care varies from a low of three per 10,000 population in India and Myanmar to 25 in the Maldives.

Migration of health workers from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal to developed countries is a major concern. According to available studies, the largest number of doctors migrating from the region is from India, while in Bangladesh a majority of fresh medical graduates seek jobs abroad.

In Sri Lanka, nearly 25 per cent of the doctors going abroad for higher studies do not return home after training.

A careful examination of the role of the workforce can provide a better understanding of priority needs such as the three health-related Millennium Development Goals - reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria - which require robust health systems.

Lack of appropriate human resource remains the single most serious obstacle to implementing health programmes to achieve the goals.

See online : The Hindu

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