March 28, 2017

Strengthening the health workforce — FHI 360’s integrated approach

Written by FHI 360

This article originally appeared on FHI 360’s website. Reposted with permission.

Despite recent improvements, the world’s health workforce still faces several challenges: It is inequitably distributed, inadequately prepared and insufficiently supported to respond to global health care needs. The United Nations estimates that there will be a projected shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030. And, the global health community’s traditional responses to this crisis have not improved the labor market conditions that fail to attract and retain health workers in positions where they are most needed.

In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly announced a new, high-level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth. This signaled the importance of taking an integrated development approach to strengthening the health workforce. The commission recognizes that strengthening the health workforce around the globe provides benefits in multiple sectors: improved health, increased global security and greater economic growth.

FHI 360 has long recognized that making strategic, evidence-based investments in the health workforce is essential for strengthening health systems and improving lives. With experts in the fields of education, gender, health, technology, workforce development and youth, we are addressing health workforce challenges by our activities in the following areas.

Connecting communities to health care jobs. FHI 360 has multiple workforce development programs that include the health sector, such as Bridge to Employment, the USAID Career Center project in Morocco, Workforce Connections and YouthPower Action. These programs advance youth and women’s employment and promote employment in the private sector. Many of our health programs also seek to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence through trainings, which empower health workers to foster healthy changes in their communities that stop the cycle of abuse.

Supporting the health workforce to optimize services. Through the Advancing Partners and Communities project, we enable community health workers to deliver higher-quality services. We also ensure that pre-service education and in-service trainings are relevant to public health needs through our Latin America and Caribbean Regional Workforce Development Program, which helps post-secondary institutions improve the quality of their training. In Burundi’s Integrated Health Project, we link investments in capacity strengthening to service delivery performance. And, in Vietnam, we have implemented and evaluated task shifting to better distribute the workload for HIV services.

Applying technology to deliver integrated health services. In Burundi’s Integrated Health Project, we are developing a tablet-based tool to improve routine supervision visits and provide support to recently trained health workers.

Promoting evidence-based investments in the health workforce. We document the cost-effectiveness of interventions for policymakers. In Vietnam, we developed evidence that justified including HIV diagnosis and treatment services in the national insurance program.

Engaging in health workforce partnerships and coordination efforts. FHI 360 works at all levels of health care systems, including the community level, where health workforce managers often need the most support. We are members of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition. In addition, our System-wide Collaborative Action for Livelihoods and the Environment (SCALE+) methodology can improve the way job seekers, trainers, recruiters and employers relate to each other, as our experiences in Honduras, Kenya, Morocco and Uganda have shown.

Strengthening national health workforce information systems. We help align district or regional project-based data systems with national data collection standards. This bolsters country ownership and enriches available health workforce data, whether for health labor market information systems to promote youth employment in the health sector in Kenya or for the management of in-service training in Burundi.

FHI 360 will continue to integrate approaches that strengthen the health workforce as we pursue the commission’s recommendations to improve health, promote global security and spur economic growth.

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