Investing in human resources for health: beyond health outcomes

Giorgio Cometto* and James Campbell Editorial


Human resources for health are necessary to the delivery of health services; only by securing a sufficient, equitably distributed, adequately supported and well-performing health workforce can any health goals and targets set by national governments or the international community be met [1]. In spite of the recognition of this central role in attaining health outcomes, investments in human resources for health have been and still are constrained by the perception that the health economy (and the health workers within it) is a consumptive sector, whose costs governments should strive to contain, rather than a contributor to socio-economic development in its own right. This thematic series sought to examine and broaden the evidence on the contribution of investment in human resources for health to broader development outcomes in other sectors, including synergies with education, finance, employment, gender empowerment and peace building. The WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030, adopted at the World Health Assembly in May 2016, articulates one of its objectives around the linkage between investments in the health workforce and “improvements in health outcomes, social welfare, employment creation and economic growth”, arguing that the investment in human resources for health can deliver a triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security and economic growth [2]. And, indeed, evidence from this thematic series under- scores the bi-directional nature of the relationship between health workforce investments and the broader socio-economic development features of countries. On the one hand, the capacity of countries to produce health workers is influenced and determined by socio-economic factors, such as income levels, education attainments, emigration rates and availability of health infrastructure, as Squires et al. point out [3]. On the other hand, Scheil-Adlung et al. show that investment in the health workforce can have a major positive impact on socio- economic development, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, where it can increase equity, reduce poverty due to ill health and ultimately contribute to sustainable development and social justice [4]. For complete article access, sign up to become a member today!

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