WHO Releases New Guidelines To Address Health Worker Shortages in Africa, Increase Access to HIV/AIDS Services
The World Health Organization on Tuesday at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, released new guidelines to address health worker shortages and help expand access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care services, Panapress/Afriquenligne reports. Health ministers and experts from 57 countries worldwide are participating in the three-day conference to discuss how to redistribute jobs of health workers in countries facing both worker shortages and communicable disease epidemics, Panapress/Afriquenligne reports. According to Fritz Lherisson, a conference delegate from UNAIDS, 36 of the 57 countries worldwide that face critical health care workers shortages are in Africa (Panapress/Afriquenligne, 1/8).
Anders Nordstrom, WHO assistant director of health systems, at the conference said such countries should implement "task shifting" to give health workers with fewer qualifications more responsibilities, AFP/Google.com reports (AFP/Google.com, 1/8). According to one recommendation included in the task-shifting recommendations, community health workers -- including people living with HIV/AIDS -- safely and effectively can provide HIV/AIDS services in a health facility and in the community, Panapress/Afriquenligne reports (Panapress/Afriquenligne, 1/8).
"Doctors and nurses are essential, but countries cannot afford to wait years while they complete their training," Nordstrom said. "Task shifting not only addresses the two interlinked emergencies of the health worker crisis and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but also offers long-term potential for strengthening health systems in a way that is consistent with the current renaissance in primary health care services," he added (AFP/Google.com, 1/8).
Ethiopia's Health Minister Tewodros Adhanom said the shortage of health personnel in sub-Saharan Africa results from the failure of public health systems to train enough staff, a lack of conducive work environments and an insufficient focus on primary health care. "In order to address the situation in its totality, task shifting should be the major tool for reinvigorating our health systems," he said, adding that unless the human resources issue is addressed immediately, the result of epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria will be devastating.
The conference -- which is cosponsored by WHO, UNAIDS, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the government of Ethiopia -- is expected to produce a call for action on task shifting in an effort to expand access to universal health services (Panapress/Afriquenligne, 1/8). According to AFP/Google.com, an additional four million health workers are needed worldwide (AFP/Google.com, 1/8).
American Public Media's "Marketplace Morning Report" on Tuesday reported on the conference (Gardner, "Marketplace Morning Report," American Public Media, 1/8). Audio and a transcript of the segment are available online.