Policy ForumPUBLIC HEALTH

Developing Health Workforce Capacity in Africa

Science  03 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6009, pp. 1324-1325
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199930

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Summary

As we mark World AIDS Day, it is important to assess the relationship between the challenges of AIDS prevention and control and the huge gaps in the health workforce needed to address these and other critical shortages. Although Africa bears 24% of the global disease burden, it has only 3% of the world's health workforce and less than 1% of the world's financial resources for health (1, 2). Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has 18 physicians per 100,000 population, ranging from 60 in South Africa to 2 in Mozambique. Meanwhile, Africa struggles to retain its precious health workers. Approximately 65,000 African-born physicians, or about one-fifth of those trained, have migrated to high-income countries within 5 years of completing their training (3). Moreover, one-third of medical school faculty posts are vacant, and 30% of faculty must supplement their income to continue teaching (4). It is vital to increase the quality and quantity of local health care workers, particularly in remote rural areas. Scientific expertise must be enhanced to determine the best prevention and treatment strategies for the local context, as well as improve target countries' (5) ability to monitor and evaluate outcomes.