29 March 2023—WHPA data was published this week documenting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health professionals worldwide. This evidence synthesis of unique WHPA data is the latest edition in the WHO’s Human Resources for Health Observer Series. Its publication is timely, ready for the opening of the WHO’s Fifth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health on 3-5 April 2023, held under the theme of Protecting, safeguarding, and investing in the health and care workforce, and where WHPA will present the report at a parallel session. A press release was also published to coincide with the opening of the Forum, highlighting the extent of damage caused to healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A first of its kind, the report emphasizes the urgent need to protect and safeguard health professionals, based on survey data collected by the members of the WHPA during the pandemic, giving real-time insight into the impacts on diverse health professions. This evidence must inform future pandemic preparedness and response and the WHO negotiations for a new pandemic instrument, in which the WHPA has actively engaged, in December 2022 and March 2023.
Protect health professionals’ mental health
The data particularly emphasises the need for mental health and psychosocial support for health professionals, during and after pandemics and emergency situations. Properly responding to this need means providing timely access to care for individuals in need, but also organizational interventions that reduce risk factors, such as improving working conditions and respecting health professionals’ rights.
The report also highlights the need for health professionals to participate in national planning, and policy and finance decision making, which can ensure that on-the-ground expertise informs decisions and ultimately benefits both patients and health systems.
WHPA is uniquely placed to provide new insight into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as witnessed and responded to by their members globally. Complementary to data collected by WHO at the national level, the professions contribute disaggregated data which translates into intelligence at a more granular level. It allows, for example, a deeper understanding of the differences and similarities in the impact of Covid-19 on different professions, genders, or business models of health care provision.
Collaboration with WHO
This report is the first assessment of its kind to combine the perspectives of the professional associations of health workers with the standardized measurement and reporting framework developed by WHO to assess the multidimensional impact of Covid-19 on health and care workers. It is aligned with and has been developed under the framework for joint action outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the WHO and the five members of the WHPA on 8 November 2022.
Erin Downey, Hoi Shan Fokeladeh and Howard Catton. What the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed: the findings of five global health workforce professions. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2023 (Human Resources for Health Observer Series No. 28).