Wrap Up: The 3rd Global Forum on Human Resources for Health

Panel from MSH presenting at 3GFHRH

The Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Recife, Brazil, the third edition following Kampala in 2008 and Bangkok in 2011, and hosted by the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) began last week with the challenges lying ahead and the progress made so far in the push for greater access to health care. A lot remains to be done, globally, to remove the obstacles on the road to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the key words that I often heard were: availability, accessibility, acceptability and, last but not least, quality.

An initial round of interesting and challenging discussions started the week, with a series of side sessions on hot topics. Management Sciences for Health (MSH) had a large presence and held active participation in the forum was initiated the morning of the first day with a side session on “Developing Leadership for Managing and Governing UHC”. During the lively session many attendees asked the panelists about their experience in developing leadership, management and governance (L+M+G) with the public health workforce and what evidence is available to show that L+M+G can lead to strengthened health systems and improved health services. Mary O’Neil, Senior Technical Officer at MSH, moderated the session and introduced the panel, emphasizing the depth and width of the experience accumulated in this area by an array of global players from the public, non-profit and private sectors.

A common theme emphasized in our presentation was the need to increase and expand the effort with the development and integration of L+M+G curricula across public and private institutions, for all levels of the health workforce. I was joined for the presentation by Lisa Meadowcroft of African Medical and Research Foundation USA, Karen Caldwell of MSH and Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program/Kenya and Michael Bzdak of Johnson and Johnson. The presentations and the numerous questions from the audience highlighted the advances made and the demand from health workers and their organizations but also the need to continue advocating for the key role L+M+G can play on the road to UHC. Interestingly enough, discussions by global actors around management currently seem to revolve mainly around the quantity of the health workforce, less on their quality (the 4th pillar of UHC), and even less on specific L+M+G competencies. The main challenge in this area is still leaders, managers and governors in the health sector who receive insufficient formal preparation to succeed and to make sure that the huge investments made in the sector are utilized to their potential. The value of their role, as opposed to that of surgeons or nurses still has to be fully recognized in many countries.

The discussions in the other side sessions of the forum, as lively as they were, highlighted a number of key global issues like migration of the health workforce, political commitment, the respective roles and responsibilities of international donors and local governments, showing the great need for forums and discussions like 3GFHRH to exist.