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Manila Bulletin Reports On WHO’s Efforts To Address Migration Of Global Health Workers

The Manila Bulletin reports on how the WHO is working with countries that have high rates of migrating health workers to maintain and expand the health workforce in areas with the greatest need, expecially low-income rural communities.

According to a WHO statement, “62 percent of nurses and 76 percent of doctors work in towns, while half of the population lives in rural areas. This is a major challenge to the provision of health services. To improve this situation WHO is disseminating strategies to help countries encourage health workers to live and work in remote and rural areas,” the newspaper reports (Luci, 7/10).

In May, at the World Health Assembly, member countries agreed to a voluntary code, known as the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, to reduce the negative effects of the recruitment of health workers from developing countries facing an acute shortage of medical professionals (Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy report, 5/24).

A WHO fact sheet outlines the positive and negative outcomes that result from health worker migration. “When significant numbers of doctors and nurses leave, the countries that financed their education lose the return on their investment. When a country has a fragile health system, the loss of its health workforce can bring the whole system close to collapse, with the consequences measured in lives lost.”

On the other hand, “[E]ach year, migration generates billions of dollars in remittances (the money sent back to home countries by migrants) to low-income countries and has been associated with a decline in poverty. Health workers also may return and bring significant skills and expertise back to their home countries,” according to the WHO.

The WHO factsheet highlights the 10 countries with the “highest expatriation rates for doctors,” notes several ways countries of origin and destination countries can work to reduce the migration of health workers and highlights key pieces of the voluntary code on health workers (July 2010).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.