2011’s Must-Read Health Workforce Publication

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 social_accountability@my.ibpinitiative.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!

Kate

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About Dr. Kate Tulenko

Dr. Kate Tulenko is a physician, health policy specialist, and Senior Director for Health Systems Innovation at IntraHealth Internatonal. She is the former coordinator of the World Bank’s Africa Health Workforce Program and recently served as team lead on Health Workforce Shortage for the “Reinventing Primary Care Project” for the Hope Street Group, a bipartisan coalition of business, civic and policy leaders. Dr. Tulenko serves on the board of the National Physicians Alliance and on the board of advisors for the Global Business School Network and in 2002 she received a Rainer Arnhold Fellowship for innovation in global development. She is a practicing pediatrician and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Tulenko has degrees from Harvard; Johns Hopkins; and Emmanuel College, Cambridge and holds adjunct faculty positions at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the George Mason School of Health and Human Services. Her book, "Insourced: How Importing Jobs Impacts the Healthcare Crisis Here and Abroad", addresses how the U.S. is underinvesting in training young Americans to be health workers and instead imports doctors and nurses from poor countries with extreme health worker shortages. Opinions expressed in "Insourced" represent those of Dr. Tulenko alone and do not represent opinions or policies of any of her current or past employers. Dr. Tulenko grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia and Gainesville, Florida. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband and two daughters with whom she enjoys exploring the beauty of art and nature. Follow Dr. Tulenko on twitter at ktulenko.
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