amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

WHO Releases New Guidelines Addressing Health Worker Shortages

February 11, 2008—The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report addressing global healthcare worker shortages and the expansion of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care services in nations hit hardest by acute shortages. Of the 57 countries currently facing critical healthcare worker shortages, 36 are in Africa.

The report,Treat, Train, Retain: Task Shifting Global Recommendations and Guidelines highlights ‘task shifting’ as a way to deal with the healthcare worker shortage. Task shifting would assign more responsibilities to healthcare workers with less training and fewer qualifications. Healthcare systems would then be able to make more efficient use of available workers, while exploring training and recruitment measures that facilitate expansion of healthcare services.

The guidelines and recommendations for task shifting are meant to be implemented alongside other strategies designed to increase the total numbers of skilled health workers. The report also calls for comprehensive national strategies for human resource development across various disease programs, including HIV/AIDS.

The much-needed new guidelines, which note an inability of healthcare systems to train enough staff as well as a lack of suitable healthcare facilities, come in response to declining healthcare systems. In 2006, sub-Saharan Africa, which carries the greatest burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, had only three percent of global healthcare workers. An estimated four million additional healthcare workers are currently needed globally.

To access the WHO report, click here.