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Meet three men in Africa who share two key beliefs: access to health care for all people is vital, and healthy people build strong economies.
Samuel Nugblega of the Christian Health Association of Ghana believes in helping his country develop economically by improving the health of Ghanaians. “Health is fundamental to everything,” he says. “And from Ghana, we say health creates wealth.” To bring this about, Samuel works to support the health workers who deliver vital services.
Lazarus Filiya of the United Methodist Church in Nigeria echoes this sentiment. “Health, they say, is wealth,” he says. Lazarus works with a rural health program to help bring care to all Nigerians. “Once you are alive, you can be sick,” he points out. “You will need a health worker.”
Leonard Onanoof the Protestant Council of Churches in Cameroon likes going out into his community and encouraging people to visit health centers and hospitals. “Our economy can only develop if people are healthy,” he says. Leonard enjoys developing the capacity of health workers so they can better care for their patients, “so that people are healthier and help the country do better.”
Guys, we’re with you. We couldn’t agree more and we salute your efforts. But a billion people still don’t have access to a health worker. And more than four million additional health workers are needed worldwide. Simply put, in order to achieve universal access to health care, we have to have more health workers. As communications professionals working at IntraHealth International and on CapacityPlus, a USAID-funded global project, we’re dedicated to spreading the word and putting our tools for strengthening the health workforce into the hands of people who can use them.
Increased support for health workers is crucial for saving lives and creating healthy, thriving communities. And through our country-level work we’ve seen some exciting achievements this year. In Uganda, the parliament allocated almost $20 million to recruit more than 6,000 new health workers to fill vacant positions. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a new national health worker recruitment and retention policy was approved. These are just two examples—many countries are making incredible progress.
But how can we see more results? How can we encourage country health leaders and governments to take action and put in place policies that will make a difference for health workers and patients?
We know we’ll keep at it. IntraHealth will continue to partner with governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and others to foster policies that empower health workers to better serve communities in need. As secretariat for the Health Workforce Advocacy Initiative, IntraHealth will keep working to share knowledge and advocate for health workers, and to empower health workers themselves to become advocates.
CapacityPlus will continue providing global leadership to address the health workforce shortage, including contributing expertise and coordinating groups to help strengthen health workforces around the world.
One more thing: you may have noticed that Samuel, Lazarus, and Leonard all work for faith-based organizations. We were introduced to them through our CapacityPlus colleague, Doris Mwarey, who coordinates the African Christian Health Association’s Platform Technical Working Group. This group builds the capacity of faith-based organizations to advocate for strengthening health workforce management at the facility and national levels. Doris interviewed the three men for the CapacityPlus “I’m a Health Worker” video series. We created the series almost a year ago to give voice to health workers and highlight how we place them at the center of all of our efforts.
Carry on Samuel, Lazarus, and Leonard. We hope our collective efforts to support health workers, increase their numbers, and get them in the right locations will allow greater access to health care, which just might equal more wealth.
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