As the realization grows that the health workforce shortage and maldistribution is the largest barrier to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, more and more health workforce publications appear every year. Sifting through them to find those worth reading and using can be a Sisyphean task. Every week I save the most important publications I have encountered across all the domains of health workforce: policy, leadership, financing, training, retention, productivity, and management. I look at scholarly articles, field reports, guidelines, toolkits, and technical briefs. Looking back on these publications in 2011, one clearly rises to the top: The Global Consensus for Social Accountability of Medical Schools.
The medical school is a mini health system with all the elements of a national health system including strategic planning, community accountability, service delivery, health worker education, and management. Anyone in public health could benefit from reading this report, no matter what their current work. The global consensus for social accountability of medical schools contains a series of recommendations in 10 domains that when implemented will have significant effects on institutional governance, health worker retention and performance, and ultimately community health outcomes. Health professional schools train the very people who end up running the health system, so who they train and what values and skills they are taught has a direct effect on the health system’s ultimate functioning.
The report takes aim at curing the major ills of today’s health professional schools: training not matched with local health needs, recruiting and training the wrong people (usually urban elites rather than people from underserved communities), not using quality improvement or management techniques, not involving the community, and unnecessarily driving up the cost of health worker education.
The initiative that produced the publication is working to help all types of health professional schools to implement the recommendations. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get involved.
For 2012 I hope to see more work on health workforce leadership, governance, and accountability. We have seen that in countries where ministers of health truly demand results and hold their staff accountable, such as in Nigeria and Ethiopia, positive change can happen.
Wishing you a healthy and productive 2012!