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Workforce Resources for Health in Developing Countries


With increased globalization and interdependence among countries, sustained health worker migration and the complex threats of rapidly spreading infectious diseases, as well as changing lifestyles, a strong health workforce is essential. Building the human resources for health should not only include healthcare professionals like physicians and nurses, but must take into consideration community health workers, mid-level workers and strengthened primary healthcare systems to increase coverage and address the basic health needs of societies. This is especially true in low and middle-income countries where healthcare access is a critical challenge.

There is a global crisis in the health workforce, expressed in acute shortages and maldistribution of health workers, geographically and professionally. This massive global shortage, though imprecise quantitatively, is estimated at more than 4 million workers. To respond to this crisis, policies and actions are needed to address the dynamics of the health labour market and the production and management of the health workforce, and to strengthen the performance of existing health systems. Schools of public health need to develop the range of capacity and leadership in addition to the traditional training of healthcare managers and researchers. Countries should first identify their health problems in order to properly address their health worker needs, retention, recruitment and training, if they are to come close to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for health.


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Correspondence to Shrikant I. Bangdiwala MS, PhD.

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Bangdiwala, S.I., Fonn, S., Okoye, O. et al. Workforce Resources for Health in Developing Countries. Public Health Rev 32, 296–318 (2010).

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Key Words

  • health workforce
  • globalization
  • Millennium Development Goals
  • sub-Saharan Africa health
  • Nigeria health
  • primary healthcare
  • mid-level health workers
  • community health workers