At the Centro de Eventos of Ceara, Fortaleza, Brazil, the Network towards Unity for Health (The Network TUFH) had its 31st conference, this year supported by the Brazilian Government (who are investing a large amount in re-organising the training of health professionals across Brazil). Held on Nov. 19-23, the theme was ‘strengthening health professionals’ education as a policy to improve health’. Over the four days of the conference, more than 1000 delegates attended, a significant number of them being students, the latter also participating in a poster competition.
EHFF was invited to give a presentation, providing a European perspective on the topic ‘Is Health Professionals Education supported as a key factor to health system development?’. Also on the panel was Juan Garcia from PAHO, the WHO Pan-American Regional Office (who is on secondment from the Ministry of Health in Spain) and David Egilman, a Director of GHETS (Global Health through Education, Training and Service, a US NGO that supports The Network TUFH). David, among other things, spoke of innovative work to ‘seed’ training centres for primary care training in Vietnam and Laos. Juan spoke about the three issues for ‘fragile states’ when it came to the health workforce, shortage, migration and maldistribution. Although not as severe as the problems in some States elsewhere in the world (and his presentation provided examples), these are recognisable issues for Europe also. Following on from the Recife declaration in 2013 ‘no health without workforce’, WHO is due shortly to publish ‘Health Workforce 2030, a global strategy.’ This will no doubt be taken account of by the Joint Action on European workforce planning, of which EHFF is a collaborating partner and EHFF will be attending the JA plenary partners meeting in Rome Dec.3/4.
Another issue raised by Dr Garcia was the recent global consensus on the social accountability of medical schools (now, of all health professional training), revisiting the Flexner report of 1910, which recognises that professional training is required to acknowledge the social context in which it is to operate. The issue of confronting reality was also highlighted in his description of several countries where the previous legally independent nature of educational establishments was being challenged by governments who felt that they needed to intervene to ensure that there was adequate health coverage. A similar situation has occurred in Brazil where the government under its ‘Mais Medicos’ (more doctors) scheme has ‘imported’ 1000 Cuban doctors to work in rural areas, much to the fury of the medical establishment, even though it was acknowledged that Brazilian doctors were refusing to leave urban settings. He predicted more challenges to the status quo (the example of nurses administrating anaesthetics where there was no adequate medical cover was also cited).
Reporting on his recent attendance at a huge meeting of health workforce specialists in China, he described innovative solutions that the Chinese government were finding to rapidly increase medical staffing at to trial new healthcare professional role configurations.
Also featured at the meeting: a presentation by Dr David Marsh on innovative educational approaches in Northern Ontario, concentrating on community engagement and a plenary presentation from Prof Jan de Maeseneer reviewing the growth of inter-professional education at the University of Ghent since the late 1990’s demonstrating their innovative integrated patient- and problem-oriented curriculum.
(copies of Prof de Maeseneer and Dr Garcia’s presentations are awaited and will be added to the site when available).