The High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth held its first meeting, following its establishment in early March 2016.
Commissioners adopted a Communiqué outlining their intention to explore ways to enhance investment in health and human capital at all levels, and to make recommendations on education and training models to ensure that health workers' competencies are aligned with population needs and epidemiologic and demographic changes, including non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and aging populations.
23 March 2016: The High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth held its first meeting, following its establishment in early March 2016. Commissioners adopted a Communiqué outlining their intention to explore ways to enhance investment in health and human capital at all levels, and to make recommendations on education and training models to ensure that health workers’ competencies are aligned with population needs and epidemiologic and demographic changes, including non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and aging populations.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed the Commission in response to a UNGA Resolution (A/70/L.32), which recognizes that investing in new health workforce employment opportunities can contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts a shortage of 18 million health workers for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mostly in low and lower-middle income countries. Within this context, the Commission is tasked with developing recommendations to address health labor shortages and create health and social sector jobs as a way to advance inclusive economic growth, create decent jobs and ensure health lives and well-being for all at all ages, as called for under the SDGs.
“The world needs a fit-for-purpose health and social workforce to advance universal health coverage (UHC) and to ensure that every person enjoys the right to health,” the Communiqué declares. In the Communiqué, the Commission recognizes the contribution of health sector jobs to women’s empowerment and inclusive, sustainable growth. It states the Commission will consider the building of resilient health systems and ways to prioritize health promotion and prevention.
Commission Co-Chair and President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, said the Commission’s work “goes to the heart of implementing the…2030 Agenda.” By training health care workers and creating employment opportunities, he said the world will be well positioned “to address the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality faced by developing countries.”
“Without the right number of jobs, it will not be possible to deliver UHC and respond equitably to the needs of populations and meet the SDG on health,” added Commission Vice-Chair and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurría. He called for training more workers with the right skills in the right places to meet future health needs, and said this will require adapting education and training systems to focus on competencies and skill reassessments, innovating and leveraging new technologies and working practices, and strengthening international cooperation to address future health workforce needs.
Commission Vice-Chair and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said policymakers must look at the health sector “not as a drain on resources but as a source of opportunities.” She elaborated that creating more health sector jobs can serve as a “counterforce to growing inequalities in income levels and opportunities.”
The Commission has a key role to play in ensuring the world achieves SDG 3 on healthy lives for all, said Commission member and EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis. He called for sufficient numbers of well-trained health professionals with the right skills “to guarantee UHC to secure basic hygiene conditions, access to nutrition and drinking water and to ensure that all countries can control an outbreak.” He recommended prioritizing prevention and expressed willingness “to consider all possible solutions,” including education and training, financial support and mobilizing women in the workforce.
Following its meeting, the Commission will draft a report, aiming to deliver recommendations to Ban in September 2016. The report will seek to provide “a new, tangible and coherent set of guiding actions for all governments and relevant stakeholders” and “uphold the spirit of partnerships and mutual responsibility reflecting the global nature of the SDGs.”
The Commission’s first meeting took place in Lyon, France, on 23 March 2016. The Commission is co-chaired by François Hollande, President, France, and Zuma. The three vice-chairs are Chan, Gurría, and Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO). An additional 19 members serve on the Commission. [Communiqué] [WHO Press Release] [Zuma Statement] [Gurría Opening Remarks] [Gurría Closing Remarks] [EU Commissioner Statement] [List of Commissioners] [EU Commissioner Webpage] [IISD RS Story on Commission Establishment]