Dean of Health Sciences on Panels Addressing Health Workforce Education
Dean of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, is working on a project to increase the quality and quantity of health care workers and improve the retention of health professional graduates in areas where they are most needed.
Essack is doing this as part of her role as a member of the Study Panel for the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Technical Working Group, both focusing on addressing health workforce education (HWE).
The ASSAf project is titled: “Reconceptualising Education and Training of the Health Workforce for the Improved Health of the Nation”.
WHO estimates that an additional 4.3 million health workers are needed worldwide to address the healthcare needs of the global population. However, not enough health workers are being produced to address the gap, which has dire implications for the health and well-being of millions of people.
A World Bank Report titled “The State of the Health Workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence of Crisis and Analysis of Contributing Factors”, identified that a stable health sector human resource base was critical to the achievement of the four (out of eight) health-related Millennium Development Goals.
In sub-Saharan Africa, health personnel to population ratios are reported as the lowest and maldistribution between rural and urban areas is rife. Investment into training capacities is identified as a key issue to address the health workforce crisis.
Part of the brief is to develop an appropriate health science education model for education from further education and training through undergraduate and postgraduate education through to the maintenance of professional competence encompassing the development of educators, students and appropriate curricula.
Essack, together with UKZN’s Professor Fatima Suleman and Dr Lyn Middleton, also serves on the international WHO Technical Working Group (TWG) looking at implementing the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA 66.23: Developing Health Workforce Education Evaluation Tools and a Standard Protocol for Implementation, to ensure that education and training institutions align their efforts on health workforce production and competencies with the needs of the health system.
The aim of this TWG is to produce a global evaluation tool (GET) aimed at different stakeholders involved in HWE and which will be implemented via appropriate government ministries in WHO member states.
‘Addressing the degree to which the quantity, quality, skills mix and distribution of the health workforce (HWF) is appropriate and aligned to our health context, the burden of disease and the health system is critical to the National Health Insurance,’ said Essack. ‘It is essential that the HWF is equipped with disciplinary knowledge, technical skills, profession-specific and generic competencies and attributes to ensure the centrality of patients and the population in the pursuit of equitable access to quality universal health coverage.’
- MaryAnn Francis