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THET at the 36th Commonwealth Health Minister’s Meeting

6 June 2024


Another first for THET with our attendance at the 36th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting on 25 May 2024. Our Technical Director for Health Systems Strengthening, Margaret Caffrey, was honoured to contribute as a technical expert, alongside Jim Campbell, the WHO Director of Health Workforce to the breakout session on “Strengthening the capacity and capabilities of the health and care workforce”, moderated by the Namibian Ministry of Health.

A broad geographical representation of ministers and delegates from over 10 commonwealth countries participated in the discussion. Observers from the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work, pharmacists and health professionals’ associations, and representatives from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health were also in attendance.

Highlights from the discussion included reflecting on the importance of a whole of society and multisectoral approach for a strong and well-resourced health and care workforce. Health worker participation in decision making and decent work, fair pay and wellbeing also formed a central part of the conversation. Discussed also covered how to mitigate the impact of migration, while timely interventions on robust data for workforce planning and capacity to respond to and utilise AI and other digital innovations was also a central theme.

The conclusions from the session were as follows:

  1. Invest in the health and care workforce for Universal Health Coverage with a particular focus on primary health care and essential public health functions
  2. Develop a comprehensive, integrated and resourced strategy, as part of a long-term policy to support the health workforce.
  3. Increase and invest in the use of data for better planning and resource mobilisation, including consideration of the role of AI in health systems
  4. Solidarity between developed and small, vulnerable and developing countries in the Commonwealth to support bi-directional knowledge-exchange in building capacity of the health and care workforce.
  5. Assess current models of healthcare delivery to enhance utilisation of existing resources.
  6. Acknowledge other forms of healthcare systems, including traditional medicine.

The Ministerial Outcome Statement of the 36th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting acknowledged that the negative impacts of international migration of health personnel should be mitigated whilst recognising and respecting the right of individual health workers to migrate and benefit from overseas training as guided by the WHO Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel.

Moreover, the Outcome Statement commits to work collectively to address the global and national shortfalls of health and care workers, in accordance with the WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030, whilst considering regional implementation plans and prioritising community health.

The Ministerial Outcome Statement also noted the recommendations from the Commonwealth Civil Society Health and Wellbeing Policy Forum, convened on 7 March 2024. This includes a call on governments to establish programmes and policies for health and care workers fostering safe, equitable and transparent work environments whilst creating decent jobs that are inclusive and appealing to all generations.

Positively, there was also recognition of the need to prioritise the wellbeing of health and care workers and strive for gender equality while ensuring access to safe and decent working conditions, career pathways, work-life balance, and protected labour rights including parental leave.

It’s important that, to achieve the outcomes of the Commonwealth Health Minister’s Meeting, countries must work collectively within the Commonwealth and leverage the Commonwealth family spirit to maximise the positive benefits of international health and care workforce migration, while overcoming on-going challenges, through alignment with the existing Global Code of Practice.

To support international work toward a more equitable health system for all, the Outcome Statement requests the Commonwealth Secretariat conduct research on current health and care workforce challenges specific to Commonwealth countries and develop proposed policy options for consideration at the 37th Commonwealth Health Minister’s Meeting. Additionally, the Outcome Statement calls for the creation of a voluntary Commonwealth Community of Practice for the Health and Care Workforce to share experiences and actionable solutions.

THET looks forward to further engaging with colleagues across the Commonwealth as we work hard toward our vision of a world where everyone has access to quality healthcare.

This post was written by:

Margaret Caffrey - Technical Director, Health Systems Strengthening


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