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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 229

Human Resources is alive but has been sort of outsourced by the WHO

Professeur (ret.), Genève, Switzerland

Date of Submission21-Jun-2008
Date of Web Publication25-Aug-2008

Correspondence Address:
J-J Guilbert
Professeur (ret.), Genève
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 19039748

How to cite this article:
Guilbert JJ. Human Resources is alive but has been sort of outsourced by the WHO. Educ Health 2008;21:229

How to cite this URL:
Guilbert JJ. Human Resources is alive but has been sort of outsourced by the WHO. Educ Health [serial online] 2008 [cited 2022 Jan 22];21:229. Available from:

Dear EfH reader,

Since 1998 I have semi-regularly reported to readers of Education for Health on the diminishing mention of Human Resources (HR) in WHO reports. (The expression “Health Workforce” is now often replacing “Human Resources”.) This is my latest update (WHO, 2008).

In a “Message to all staff from Director-General”, dated 9 October 2007, the WHO Director General (DG) announced that “changes would come” in relation to “health security and the environment, endemic communicable diseases, research and UN reform”. In this report, there was but a single mention of human resources, noted as “capacity building” and the “unmistakable imperative to strengthen the workforce”.

The DG did not reference the conference “Human Resources for Health in Africa: Experiences, Challenges and Realities,” which was held in Douala in June 2007. It was decided there, under point 8 of its Plan of Action, to “create a compendium of competencies and a directory of health professions” by December 2008. If realized, this will be a first ever compendium, in the history of WHO, to define professional competencies specific to a regional situation. In this respect a May 2007 document “Tuning Educational Structures in Europe” provides several lists of specific (medical) competences (Socrates-Tempus Education and Culture, 2007).

In the twenty-one years (1967-1988) I was responsible for education, planning and evaluation for the WHO(AFRO Regional Office and HQ Health Manpower Development division), my strenuous efforts failed to generate much attention to human resources issues. It is disappointing to think that human resources will remain outside the DG’s targeted “change” areas. Viewed optimistically, one can conclude that human resources, as an issue, is recognized but has been outsourced. For example, a new publication, Human Resources for Health (HRH, 2008), is published “in collaboration with the WHO” and its Editor-in-Chief is on the WHO staff. But it has been outsourced to the publisher Biomed Central Limited, “an independent publisher committed to ensuring peer-reviewed biomedical research”.

Similarly, from 2 to 7 March 2008, a “first-ever global forum on Human Resources for Health” was held in Kampala, Uganda. The forum was organized by a partner of the WHO called the Global Health Workforce Alliance (2008) which is “hosted and administered” by the WHO. Several WHO staff attended. The forum was “dedicated to identifying and implementing solutions to the health workforce crisis.” The Global Health Workforce Alliance is “an independent stake-holder in partnership with WHO and operating from a secretariat base at WHO headquarters”. It consists of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), agencies, professionals, educators, and government leaders. An “Agenda for Global Action: Health Workers for All and All for Health Workers” is to come out of this important meeting as well as a “Kampala Declaration”. Appearing as a clear follow-up to the Douala June 2007 meeting the available pre-conference draft calls upon “governments to determine the appropriate health workers skill mix” and “to devise rigorous accreditation systems for health worker education and training”. The meeting ended 3 months ago but no report has yet been made available. I shall report on this as soon as feasible.

Professeur (ret.) J-J. GUILBERT,

MD, PhD(educ),DHc(Ferrara)

15 avenue du Mail, CH - 1205 Genève, Switzerland

[email protected]


Global Health Workforce Alliance (2008). Available at:

Human Resources for Health (2008). Available at:

Socrates-Tempus Education and Culture (2007). “Tuning Educational Structures in Europe”, subject area Medicine, Validation Conference for Health Care, Brussels-22nd June 2007.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2008). WHO projects, initiatives, activities. Retrieved 22 April 2008, from


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