Coalition Launches, Calls for US Leadership and Investment in Frontline Health Workers

Yesterday, IntraHealth International and 14 other global health organizations launched the Frontline Health Workers Coalition at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, DC. More than 150 representatives of nongovernmental organizations, the US government, nonprofit organizations, and others participated in the event, which was moderated by Dee Dee Myers, managing director of the Glover Park Group and former White House press secretary for President Clinton.

“People understand the importance of health workers in their lives,” said Myers, thanking panelists for “putting a human face on the issue” of global health. Myers added, “We need to educate every generation of Congress, and every generation of Americans, about global health and development.”

Panelist Anita McBride, former chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush and a senior advisor at the George W. Bush Foundation, underscored the importance of US leadership in addressing global health problems. “It is critical that the US lead on humanitarian issues,” McBride said, adding, “A coalition like this is so critical.” McBride also said, “The US government cannot do it alone, and the US taxpayers need to know that the government is not doing it alone but depends on the work of nongovernmental organizations and other partners.”

Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth International, also talked about the importance of leveraging partnerships and collaborating at all levels. “What we saw in this room today,” he said, “will be a microcosm of what can happen in the world when we join forces.” Gaye reminded participants that frontline health workers are a “smart investment” and that “investing in a healthy world is good for all of us.”

“We are happy to see this partnership,” said Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, assistant administrator for global health at USAID. Pablos-Méndez talked about the “incredible revolution” in global health advances, adding that “positioning health workers as the face of the health system is the way to go.”

“Frontline health workers are the unsung heroes of the health care system,” said Dr. Peter Ngatia, AMREF’s director of capacity building. He quoted a frontline health worker in Ethiopia who said, “Sometimes I wish I had more hands, and, at the end of the day, I think we would have done better if we had more hands and more health workers.”

Duncan Learmouth, senior vice president of developing countries and market access, GlaxoSmithKline, talked about the key role the private sector can play in ensuring that health workers have the tools and medicines they need to be able to do their jobs. “It’s not just philanthropy,” Learmouth said. “It’s all about sustainable investments.”

The newly formed coalition released a new report yesterday called Frontline Health Workers:  The Best Way to Save Lives, Accelerate Progress on Global Health, and Help Advance U.S. Interests. The report highlights the key role of frontline workers in delivering lifesaving care and support, as well as the need for more health workers. In the report, the coalition calls on the US government to commit to training, deploying, and retaining an additional 250,000 new frontline health workers, and to support existing health workers.

In addition to IntraHealth, members of the coalition include Abt Associates, AMREF, Family Care International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GAPPS (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth), IAPAC (International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care), Jhpiego, Partners In Health, PSI, Public Health Institute, RESULTS, Save the Children, White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and World Vision. Eight corporations are partnering with the Frontline Health Workers Coalition to help increase the number of trained health workers, improve retention rates among existing health workers, and enhance the capacity of existing health workers.

Read more about the Coalition here.