November 13 , 2006
Forum tackles international shortage of nurses and doctors
BY kim urquhart
Kenya, like many countries around the world, is facing a health crisis — the demand for nurses and other skilled health care professionals is outpacing the supply.
In response, Emory’s Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has teamed up with Kenyan leaders to develop a computerized work force database system. This program, the Kenya Nursing Work Force Project, was one of many strategies shared at the Global Government Health Partners Forum.
The international conference attracted more than 150 global government health leaders from more than 100 countries to the Carter Center on Nov. 2–3 to address the global, national and regional shortages of skilled health care workers. It was hosted by the international nursing center, which is housed in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.
International experts met with leaders from the United Nations, World Health Organization, CDC and other major organizations to examine the primary factors contributing to the shortage — including work conditions, migration and trade policy — and to develop effective policies to manage this global crisis.
“The crisis cuts across all sectors of health care with critical shortages of nurses as well as physicians,” said Marla Salmon, dean of Emory’s school of nursing, director of the international nursing center and conference secretariat co-chair. “Collaboration within and across all of these vital sectors is imperative in today’s world.”
Armed with new ideas and information about both the external and internal forces driving the shortages, health leaders discussed challenges, formed partnerships and crafted functional plans to carry back to their countries.
The forum was preceded by special meetings allowing attendees additional time for collaboration on key issues. Nursing leaders gathered at the “Government Chief Nursing Officers’ Institute and Network Meeting” Oct. 30–31. The program allowed nursing officials to discuss the health-care challenges in their countries and encouraged open exchanges about health and leadership issues.
Another pre-conference workshop, held at the CDC on Nov. 1 for all participating health leaders, addressed avian influenza. The potential for avian influenza to ignite a worldwide pandemic indicates the need for a well-planned public health response to epidemics and other health emergencies.
“There will be another pandemic,” said Jeffrey Koplan, vice president for academic affairs for Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center, former director of the CDC and conference secretariat co-chair. Whether it is H5N1 bird flu or another epidemic, he said, the outcome will depend heavily on the quality and quantity of the global health care work force.