News & commentary about the global health workforce
Vital Home

Top 5 Reasons the Global Health Community Should Have Its Eyes on Recife

From November 9 -13, more than 1,200 of the world’s top decision makers and thought leaders on the health workforce will convene in Recife, Brazil, for the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health.  If you work in any aspect of the field of global health for any type of organization, the proceedings of the Forum should be important to you. Here are the top five reasons:

1. Country Commitments: At the Third Global Forum more than 40 countries will publically announce their health workforce commitments as well as their plans to monitor them. These “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the health workforce” will set the health workforce implementation agenda for the next few years and guide partners to where and how they can be of most help. It will not only be interesting to see what countries commit to, but to see which country will follow in the steps of Ethiopia or Malawi—countries that have made sweeping reforms and significant investments in creating and retaining their health workforces to meet their populations’ health needs.

2. The Future of Global Health Workforce Leadership: No health intervention—whether related to policy, financing, vaccinations, or medications—can be implemented without health workers. This includes work on the entire health system as well as providing health workforce support to programs for disease control and special populations. Over the past decade, global leadership has been instrumental in getting more attention and resources dedicated to health workforce strengthening. Yet, for the past year, the future of this leadership has been uncertain. The World Health Organization (WHO) eliminated its director-level health workforce position and the future of the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) hasn’t been clear. In Recife there will be multiple high-level conversations about the future of GHWA, the newly reposted WHO health workforce director position, as well as other potential global health workforce leadership alternatives.   

3. A Glimpse into the Structure of Global Health Initiatives in the Post-MDG Era: The Third Global Forum will reveal what major global health partners—including governments, donors, and implementers—see as the future structure of global health initiatives. It will also be one of the first major global health conferences to put health system building blocks in the context of the effort to achieve universal health coverage. I expect to see trends toward more funding going directly in-country, an increased focus on country ownership and capacity building, and greater emphasis on governance and accountability.

4. Innovation: With many of the best and brightest of the health workforce community presenting their results in Recife, there’s sure to be innovation. Certainly lots of new ideas will be shared that you may want to add to your own programs. We’ll be sharing many of our own at CapacityPlus’s side session on achieving human resources for health (HRH) commitments and IntraHealth’ s session on SwitchPoints for HRH. WHO will also formally release its special edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization focused on HRH and universal health coverage, including my own article on Community Health Workers. GHWA will also release an updated report on the status of the global health workforce, highlighting what has worked and what hasn’t.   

5. Cross-fertilization: One of the benefits of any major conference is the intellectual cross-fertilization that occurs when people working on different parts of the “elephant” get together and compare notes. Cross-fertilization will also occur through the connection between the Third Global Forum and the International Conference on Family Planning that will be held at the same time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Most forms of family planning require seeing a health worker, and family planning can have dramatic impacts on the health of women as well as the health of their children. Unfortunately, due to the lack of access to family planning, since the 2006 World Health Report on the health workforce was published, population growth has outstripped our ability to train new health workers so that health worker densities have actually decreased globally.So keep an eye on VITAL and our CapacityPlus Blog for updates from the Third Global Forum on HRH and follow #3GFHRH and #healthworkerscount on Twitter. Also join the conversation with the Global Health Workforce Group on LinkedIn.Dr. Kate Tulenko is the Director of CapacityPlus, USAIDs flagship health workforce project and Senior Director, Health Systems Innovation at IntraHealth International. Follow her on twitter at @ktulenko.