Championing Health Workers in the SDGs

CommunicationsBlog, Featured, Liberia, Malawi, Medicine, Midwifery, Nursing, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda

The most recent report from the United Nations on the advancements made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals finds that while progress has been made across all areas of development, the pace of progress has been slow, and advancements have been uneven to fully meet the implementation of the SDGs by 2030.

Established in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all member countries of the United Nations focused on ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

SDG 3 seeks to ensure health and well-being for all, at every stage of life. Major strides have been made in improving health around the world: between 2000 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 37 per cent, and the under-5 mortality rate fell by 44 per cent. Still, 5.9 million children under age 5 died worldwide in 2015. Most of these deaths were from preventable causes.

As progress towards the SDG’s slows, the need for more health workers continues to rise. The World Health Organization estimates that the global needs-based shortage of health care workers is projected to be more than 18 million in 2030. How can we make progress on the world’s most audacious health goals if we do not have enough trained, competent health workers – doctors, nurses, midwives, community health workers, etc. – in our communities?

This shortage will only be exacerbated due to increasing trends in the migration of health personnel, the threats to health care workers in conflict zones, and the inadequate funding to support health systems and hire health professionals.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have the highest under-5 mortality rate, with 84 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015— about twice the global average. Yet as inequitable health care persists in the region, its shortage of health care professionals is forecasted to worsen by 45 percent.

Achieving the SDG’s, particularly SDG 3, and improving the health outcomes of individuals and communities around the world requires a strong and skilled health workforce. To reduce preventable deaths of children under the age of five, to improve access to skilled birth attendants for pregnant mothers, to ensure everyone has access to the care they need, increasing the number of health professionals must be a cornerstone of not only global policy, but more importantly, action.