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From healthworker shortfall to collective commitment. A week at the Human Resources for Health Forum in Dublin.

29 November 2017


The world faces a potential 18 million health worker shortfall.

A couple of weeks ago,  over 1000 delegates from around the world met to reinforce a collective commitment to developing and making available the workforce required to deliver the SDGs.

Andrew Jones, Head of Partnerships at THET was at the Forum this year, with Graeme Chisholm, Policy Manager, and presented on the work of health partnerships and their contribution to health workforce capacity strengthening. Here follows his round-up:

“That further shore is reachable from here”

Seamus Heaney

The opening sentiment of the Dublin Declaration on Human Resources for Health: Building the Health Workforce of the Future is one that THET has held for almost thirty years and one which our response to the Declaration captures. As inequalities in health care and access continue to become a looming crisis the Forum came at the perfect moment to take stock of the progress made in recent years but also the vast gains still to be made.

Every three years the Forum presents the opportunity for member states, Ministries of Health and civil society to meet to discuss innovative and sustainable methods for closing the health workforce shortfall. For me the event is at the forefront of shaping the future of the health workforce and it is great that THET can play a role at this level.

In our official relations with the WHO we continue to support their work on the Workforce 2030 strategy which was embodied during the five days. Our opening side-event on Tuesday with partners including the ESTHER Alliance for Global Health Partnerships, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Intrahealth International generated a huge amount of new thought and saw many participants change their thinking on the institutional use of partnership working. This success was further reinforced during our joint session with Professor Francis Omaswa and David Weakliam, both kind supporters of our work and of the inherent value of health partnerships.

At times it was fantastic to see ‘mirrors’, of course on a larger scale, of our own Annual Conference in October this year. To hear Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, voicing continued support for developing the health workforce further compounded the resolve and commitment of the WHO to work with partners to tackle the growing shortfall.


Just as Anti-Microbial Resistance and the increasing global health threat it is posing came to bear during our own conference as Professor Dame Sally Davies spoke to, so too at the Forum this same urgent need to act was emphasised. I attended a particularly interesting lunch time session sponsored by the International Pharmaceutical Federation on the need to equip the workforce in low and middle income countries with the tools and practices to meet the Infection Prevention Control needs. This is a theme that THET is working to incorporate more heavily into future partnership work.

As Dr Agnés Soucat, Director for Health Systems, Governance and Financing, WHO reminded us all; if we are too achieve universal health coverage then we must, ‘prioritise health, prioritise wages and prioritise the right type of health worker’.

Looking to the future it is clear that there is a need for accountability of governments in delivering on their promises. It has been a privilege to interact with senior politicians and diplomats from across the world, but there is an underlying disappointment, and sometimes cynicism, on the part of Southern delegates that the “fine words” of the Forum will be followed through with meaningful action.

‘Partnerships are the future’

Dr Francis Omaswa, Executive Director of the African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation

I left the Forum hopeful that we could realise these ambitions through collective commitment having met with countless like-minded individuals and organisations working towards our mission at THET to support health workers around the world.

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