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07 Sep 2012

Health Professional Education and Training Post-2015

By Erica Wheeler, World Health Organization.

The World Health Report of 2006 pointed to the severe shortages of health professionals around the globe.  This has left millions of people without access to appropriate health services and is hampering the attainment of the millennium development goals. Estimates indicate that in 2006, an additional 2.4 million doctors, nurses and midwives were needed. Focusing on the workforce shortage alone will not resolve the crisis. In many settings, both rich and poor, the education of health professionals has been isolated from health service delivery needs and has not adapted to match rapidly changing population health needs.

Systematic failures in health professional education and training for decades has included: the mismatch of health professional competencies to population and local health needs; poor teamwork and weak leadership, including leadership for health system performance; the preference for a hospital focus which dominates over the needs of primary care; health worker and gender imbalances; and professional silos or segregation.

More health professionals are therefore needed, but not more of the same. A transformation of health professional education should put population health needs and expectations at the centre and should be directed by the reality of health service delivery. This is the focus of the policy guidelines that are being developed by the WHO initiative on transforming and scaling up health professional education and training. Transformative education as used in these guidelines is defined as the expansion and reform of health professional education and training to increase the quantity, quality and relevance of health professionals to best meet population health needs and expectations in an equitable and efficient manner, whilst strengthening country health systems and improving population health outcomes.

The guidelines on transforming and scaling up the education and training of health professionals has 5  domains of recommendations: governance and planning; accreditation and regulatory frameworks; education and training institutions;  financing and sustainability; and planning, implementation and evaluation. It is underpinned by no less than 11 guiding principles and has 3 overall outcomes of interest, namely quantity, quality and relevance. It linked to the Nursing Education Partnership (NEPI) and Medical Education Partnership(MEPI) and its development is being supported and funded by PEPFAR, USAID, IntraHealth and CapacityPlus.

This blog is based on a presentation that will be made at a NORRAG workshop On Education and Skills Development Post-2015,Wednesday 12th September 2012, at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.

Erica Wheeler is a Technical Officer at World Health Organization. Email:

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