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When we talk about the “health workforce crisis” or “human resources for health,” this abstract language can obscure the suffering of people in need. A woman dies in labor because she can’t reach a properly trained and supported health worker. A child succumbs to pneumonia. A farmer is felled by malaria. A minor injury at work becomes a badly infected wound. The cost in death, pain, disrupted families, and lost productivity mounts.
All of this can be prevented or treated by introducing a skilled health worker.
The US Government’s Global Health Initiative has commendable goals and targets, including “Increased numbers of trained health workers and community workers appropriately deployed in the country.” And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently spoke eloquently of our national commitment to global health, saying that “Few investments are more consistent with all of our values and few are more sound.” But our goals and values will not be realized where there is no health worker.
The GHI can be achieved only if health workers are present. The basic tenets of a health workforce strategy are clear and feasible. The cost to the US of making health workers accessible is not great. Making health workers available to communities will help ensure the GHI’s enduring legacy.
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