The Americas are short of 600,000 health professionals, affecting access to health in rural and underserved areas – PAHO/WHO

Geneva, Switzerland, May 27, 2022 – The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, said today that the health workforce deficit in the Americas reaches 600,000 professionals, which affects access to care, especially for those in rural and underserved areas of the region.

During deliberations on the 2022-2030 “Working for Health” action plan at the 75th World Health Assembly, Etienne recognized “the enormous sacrifice and contribution of health workers in the Americas” during the pandemic of COVID-19.

“The unwavering resilience of our health workers is a testament to their commitment to serve, save lives and ensure health for all,” she said.

The PAHO Director noted that during the peaks of the pandemic, “task shifting and sharing saved lives” and that “delivery of patient care was facilitated by digital transformation.”

In this regard, she noted that PAHO, through its Virtual Campus for Public Health, has trained more than 900,000 health workers in the control and management of COVID-19, the continuity of health services and the deployment of vaccines during the pandemic.

However, Etienne said, “we can no longer ignore long-standing deficiencies in health systems,” which impact the ability of health workers to deliver quality, uninterrupted care.

Among the shortcomings, Etienne cited the migration of health personnel to urban centers or richer countries – aggravating the gap; lack of planning between education and labor sectors; and insufficient emphasis on interprofessional and continuing education.

Among the effects of COVID-19, a WHO study estimated that around 115,000 health workers died between January 2020 and May 2021 worldwide.

“Investing in health systems and a health workforce fit for purpose is a priority for the Americas,” she noted, adding that PAHO looks forward to working with Member States, partners, and the WHO to develop “an agenda for transforming human resources for health in the Americas.”

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