WHO / NOOR / Sebastian List
In the context of collective efforts to address the challenges related to the international mobility of health professionals, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO regional directors for the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the European Region and South-East Asia Region, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge and Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, launched a virtual tri-regional policy dialogue to examine trends and policy responses.
During the 2-day meeting, the regional directors were joined by representatives of ministries, regulatory bodies of health professionals, United Nations agencies, development partners, technical experts from the 3 regions of l WHO and participants in development, education, finance, migration and trade. sectors.
Of particular importance is the movement of health workers in WHO regions. The 3 participating regions include the main countries of origin of migrant doctors working in the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and 6 of the main countries of origin of migrant nurses.
Promoting health beyond borders
This unique political dialogue has been an important part of the activities marking 2021 as the International Year of the Health and Care Workers. It aimed to explore opportunities, policy responses and innovations in WHO regions with respect to ethical international recruitment, the fair and effective employment and integration of foreign health workers, and the exploitation of the contribution of diaspora health workers.
The international mobility of health workers has increased and, with a global shortage estimated at 18 million health workers by 2030, this trend is expected to continue. Strengthened mobility management – through improved information, policies and international cooperation, framed by the WHO Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel – is needed to ensure that this contributes, rather than undermines, the advancement of universal health coverage and health security in WHO Member States.
“The current pandemic has highlighted the central role of health workers in health security and health-related sustainable development goals. Countries need to invest in a sustainable national health workforce that meets the current and future needs of their populations. This means expanding and transforming the education, training, recruitment, development, distribution, retention and financing of health workers, as well as improving working conditions and creating attractive jobs, ”said Dr Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
“Health and care is the largest sector of employment in the WHO European Region, employing some 13 million people. This is one of the reasons why health worker mobility is vital for the 53 Member States we serve. This is also the right thing to do, because investing in the sector in a way that benefits both home and recipient countries is a future investment and good value for money, in terms of impact. positive on economies, societies and health in general, ”said Dr Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has, in many ways, put the mobility of healthcare workers at the forefront. It is time for all stakeholders to jointly chart the way forward towards increased cooperation between health systems and capacity building of health systems in sending and receiving countries. For too long, the health sector has been sidelined from discussions about health worker mobility, despite the significant impact that this mobility has had and continues to have in low- and middle-income countries through worldwide. The health sector should actively promote the approach to health in all WHO policies, in coordination with ministries of labor, education, trade and other relevant ministries to inform policies and obtain positive health outcomes, ”said Dr Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for the South. -East Asia.
Investing in the health workforce
At the recent Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly (May 24-31, 2021), Member States approved 2 resolutions on the health workforce: protecting, safeguarding and investing in the health workforce, and optimizing global guidance for health workers. nursing and midwifery in 2021–2025.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for enhanced cooperation between countries to address national health workforce gaps through the recruitment of international health workers.