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A new analysis illustrates exactly how the World Health Organization’s Workforce Indicators of Staffing Needs (WISN) tool can provide the data that health systems managers and policymakers need to promote universal access to health care within their own countries. The analysis appears in a special issue of World Health & Population, the theme of which is “The Global Health Workforce: Striving for Equity Tackling Challenges on the Ground.” IntraHealth International board member Marilyn DeLuca served as guest editor.
The WISN method, which is available free from the WHO, estimates the numbers and types of staff each health facility needs based on actual workload. Managers can use the resulting data to assess workload pressures and make staffing decisions, and the ministry can use them to determine what types of health workers and how many a region or facility may need based on the real demand for services and the time it takes to provide different types of care.
Data like these will be vital to reaching the new Sustainable Development Goals—which include achieving universal health coverage by 2030—and to combatting the global shortage of health workers. According to WHO estimates, the world needs an additional 7.2 million doctors, nurses, and midwives in order to meet global demand for health services.
As part of its commitment to achieving universal access to health care in Namibia, the Ministry of Health and Social Services worked with IntraHealth to apply WISN to the country’s public health sector regionally and nationally. The results revealed severe shortages of physicians and pharmacists, that nurses are not distributed effectively throughout the country, and that staffing norms were inflexible.
The new data have raised awareness among policy-makers and are now informing more evidence-based decisions regarding the health sector among government officials.
In their paper published in the journal World Health & Population last month, authors from IntraHealth and Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services outline several innovative ways to use WISN results to influence health policy, planning, management, and practice, using Namibia as an example. These include:
IntraHealth authors of the analysis include Jennifer Wesson, senior monitoring, evaluation, and research technical advisor; Pamela McQuide, Namibia country director; Claire Viadro, technical writer and editor; Maritza Titus, senior human resources for health advisor; Daren Trudeau, senior program manager; and Maureen Corbett, vice president of programs. Norbert Forster, deputy permanent secretary in Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services, was also an author.