Mary Beth Powers, Chair, Frontline Health Workers Coalition
Nearly one year ago, Eric Goosby – the United States Global AIDS Ambassador and new Ambassador for Global Health Diplomacy – made a simple yet powerful statement that exemplifies why we founded the Frontline Health Workers Coalition: without health workers, there is no access to care.
From the thousands of women like Almaz Dalsha being trained in Ethiopia to provide health services to mothers and babies in their communities, to trained pharmacists like Brenda Picho putting her life on the line to help quell an Ebola outbreak in Uganda, to the courage displayed by physicians like Dr. Shamail Azimi to improve the lives of refugees in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the 27 member organizations in our Coalition have the privilege of witnessing the extraordinary impact of frontline health workers around the world on a daily basis. We banded together in January to tell their story to the American people and urge greater and more strategic U.S. investment in them.
Mali, May 2009. Gao Nursing School in-service training. Courtesy IntraHealth International.
Unfortunately, the world is short at least 1 million Almaz Dalshas, Brenda Pichos and Shamail Azimis to provide care for a population that we learned last week is living longer lives with more years of disability and illness. As the statement by Dr. Goosby underscores, the U.S. government recognizes the need for its leadership, in partnership with other countries, to address this global health workforce crisis.
In our first year as a Coalition, we have worked with members of the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration on elevating the need to support frontline health workers. Here are our top 5 highlights of 2012 in chronological order:
1. Coalition launches. With participation of U.S. government agencies and private sector supporters, the Frontline Health Workers Coalition formally launches in January 2012.
2. Congressional support builds with introduction of resolution to support frontline health workers. On July 12, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.) introduced a resolution with bipartisan support that “reaffirms the important role of frontline health workers in saving lives and fostering a healthier, more secure, and more prosperous world,” and calls on federal agencies to “develop a coordinated and comprehensive health workforce strengthening strategy for increasing equitable access to qualified health workers in developing countries, particularly in underserved areas, with a strategic focus on frontline health workers.”
3. Events during United Nations General Assembly raise need for increased support to frontline health workers. Several events during the U.N. General Assembly in September illuminated the critical role of frontline health workers in advancing progress on the health Millennium Development Goals. The events were planned by FWHC members and supporters JHPIEGO, Johnson & Johnson, Save the Children, and Merck. In December, the Assembly passed a resolution recognizing that “effective and financially sustainable implementation of universal health coverage” will require “an adequate skilled, well-trained and motivated workforce.”
4. Frontline health workers recognized with launch of the REAL Awards. Also in September, Save the Children and the Coalition announced the creation of the REAL Awards—a first-of-its kind awards platform designed to develop greater respect for and appreciation of the life-saving care provided by health workers, and to demonstrate the universal and urgent need for more trained, caring health workers around the world. In mid-January 2013, eight U.S.-based honorees will be announced, joining their 10 global counterparts as the inaugural REAL Awards class. Visit www.theREALawards.com to find out more and show your support for health workers everywhere.
5. Coalition secretariat established. In October, the Coalition announced the creation of a secretariat, housed at member organization IntraHealth. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the secretariat manages the collective work of the Coalition to urge greater and more strategic U.S. investment in frontline health workers in developing countries.
As we enter 2013, we look forward to carrying forward the momentum created by our Coalition and our partners in our inaugural year. We hope you will stay connected with our work through our website, blog and social media outlets, and that you will tell your government officials about your support for frontline health workers worldwide.