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Dr. Kate Tulenko is a physician and global health specialist who acts as Vice President of health systems innovation. In her recent article, Dr. Tulenko discusses Africa's commitment to universal health care.
Sub-Saharan African populations and economies are growing at unprecedented speed with a population growth of 2.7% and economic growth of 4.4% annually. Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world, with 313 million people (roughly the population of the US), 34% of Africa’s population. This growing middle class is demanding higher quality and more specialized medical care from both the public and the private sector. At the same time, all African countries have committed to providing Universal Health Care to their populations, which will require a dramatic expansion in the provision of health services.
Yet a number of bottlenecks are making this difficult to achieve. Africa, despite having the world’s largest disease burden, has the lowest ratio of health workers per population. In recent work that IntraHealth conducted with the World Health Organization, we calculated that the global shortage of health workers will expand from 12 million to 18 million by 2030, with a 6 million shortage in Africa. With the fastest growing population in the world and some of the worst high school graduation rates, Africa will be challenged to train enough health workers.