The Allied Health Professional Workforce: Evidence and Impact
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Buchan, J. & O''May, F. (2011) The Allied Health Professional Workforce: Evidence and Impact, , , , ,
Health workforce issues have been on the top of the policy agenda across the globe in recent years. Any dialogue with health policy makers about the health workforce is likely to engender the following key questions: - How do we plan how many health workers to educate, and employ? - How can we improve recruitment, retention and return? - Which incentives are effective in motivating staff? - How can we determine and deploy the most effective skill mix of staff? - How do we improve productivity? These health workforce challenges were summarised by WHO in the 2006 World Health Report, which presented an estimate that there was a world-wide shortage of almost 4.3 million health care workers, and that 57 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, had critical shortages. Sub-Saharan Africa had only 4% of health workers but 25% of the global burden of disease (GBD); in contrast the Americas had 37% of health workers but only 10% of GBD (WHR 2006). One critical dimension of shortages- is that there is uneven distribution of health workers to meet demand, by country, by region, by sector and by occupational mix. Against this backdrop of global shortages, and in the context of cost containment measures in many countries, developed and developing, it is critical that the allied health professional (AHP) workforce receives sufficient policy attention to enable it to make an optimal contribution to meeting health needs. At the moment, this is not happening fully in many countries and contexts. In part this is because the AHP workforce is often a newer element in the health system, and may not have developed the policy influencing mechanisms that are used by more established- and larger in number professions such as medicine and nursing. In part it can also be because some policy makers do not understand fully just what a contribution is being made, and could be made, by the AHP workforce. This paper summarises the recent evidence base on the contribution of the AHP workforce to health service delivery, and highlights current AHP workforce priorities.