Health workers are all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to protect and improve health. A country’s health workforce consists broadly of health service providers and health management and support workers. This includes:
- private as well as public sector health workers
- unpaid and paid workers
- lay and professional cadres.
Overall, there is a strong positive correlation between health workforce density and service coverage and health outcomes.
A “well-performing” health workforce is one that is available, competent, responsive and productive. To achieve this, actions are needed to manage dynamic labour markets that address entry into and exits from the health workforce, and improve the distribution and performance of existing health workers. These actions address the following:
- How countries plan and, if needed, scale-up their workforce asking questions that include: What strategic information is required to monitor the availability, distribution and performance of health workers? What are the regulatory mechanisms needed to maintain quality of education/training and practice? In countries with critical shortages of health workers, how can they scale-up numbers and skills of health workers in ways that are relatively rapid and sustainable? Which stakeholders and sectors need to be engaged (e.g. training institutions, professional groups, civil service commissions, finance ministries)?
- How countries design training programmes so that they facilitate integration across service delivery and disease control programmes.
- How countries finance scaling-up of education programmes and of numbers of health workers in a realistic and sustainable manner and in different contexts.
- How countries organize their health workers for effective service delivery, at different levels of the system (primary, secondary, tertiary), and monitor and improve their performance.
- How countries retain an effective workforce, within dynamic local and international labour markets.
This section of the health system profile is structured as follows: