Key points of the discussions include NYU Nursing Global creating an observatory center to actualize and advance the Summit aims and derived next steps

NYU Nursing Global Conference Tackles Need for Global Investment in Human Resources for Health, October 13, 2011
Robert Berne, NYU Senior Vice President for Health and professor of Public Policy and Financial Management addresses the Summit

Why does global health workforce matter?  Health care workers are the backbone of health systems, yet they are not sufficiently recognized as such and fail to attract donors’ strategic investment plans. The lack of tangible immediate results and the complexity of health systems simply have  not sparked enough investment and action by funders, foundations, and institutions.

New York University College of Nursing Global (NYUCN Global) in partnership with the Global Health Workforce Alliance (the Alliance) hosted 90 individuals representing foundations, multilateral funders, US funding agencies, low- and middle-income government representatives, private for profit corporations, and academia from around the world for a one-day summit: “Strengthening 21st Century Global Health Systems: Investing Strategically in the Health Care Workforce,” Thursday, October 13, 2011, in NYC.

Participants addressed the scarcity of global investment in Human Resources for Health (HRH) and articulated a range of strategic investments that have the potential to efficiently strengthen global health systems. 

Dr. Kurth, NYUCN-Global Director, and co-chair of the Summit along with Dr. Marilyn Deluca, noted the timeliness of the Summit.  “Given the HIV pandemic, growing non-communicable disease burden, maternal mortality, and aging populations, people are starting to recognize the fundamental importance of strong health systems to address health concerns in any country.  Pairing that recognition with examples of what works to strengthen the health workforce can be a powerful force to improve population health."

"We hope today's discussion will move us forward in understanding the complexities of the HRH shortage that persists despite certain interventions. The speakers will help us understand what is working, but more so to address what is NOT working and why, then we can collectively talk about how we can mainstream foundation contributions to help us achieve the MDGs" said Dr. Mubashar Sheikh, Executive Director of the Alliance.

The three panels and three keynotes presented on various aspects of HRH and foundation engagement: (1) foundation strategies: experiences and lessons in HRH, (2) engaging foundations in supporting and advocating for global HRH, and (3) collaborations: sustainability, and evaluation/metrics. 

Below are some key summary points that emerged from the discussions:

·         Large scale advocacy campaign(s) is needed to put a human face on health systems and workforce.

·         Commitment to HRH by governments in low- and middle-income countries is essential to progress in addressing the health workforce crisis. Inherent to progress in this arena is a country-by-country commitment to prioritize and resource strengthening HRH Multiple, cross-sector stakeholders are required to improve health through human resources. Particular emphasis on recent appreciation of the role that foundations have to play in HRH.

·         The Summit participants representing foundations, multilateral funders, US funding agencies, low-and middle-income government representatives, private for profit corporations, and academia revealed incredible commitment to strengthen and grow a competent, educated and retained health care workforce in order to improve population health across settings.

·         There was broad agreement that these cross-sector players have not coordinated enough in the past and, that in order to effectively and efficiently respond to HRH challenges, these sectors need to increase and sustain sharing of resources. Funders need to be transparent and to collaborate.

·         Improve networking and disseminate knowledge more generally, and obtain the necessary catalytic investments. Track lessons learned and metrics of success. Think globally: G77 [not G8]. The most interesting experiments are happening in places that were not on the global health radar 20 years ago. We need to build collaborations in different contexts to find ways to bring the state-of-the-art, high level HRH to people everywhere.

·         NYU College of Nursing was asked to create an observatory (center, or “situation room for HRH”) to actualize and advance the Summit aims and derived next steps.

The candid discussions among participants proved the Summit to be a needed and rare initiative. It was mentioned that this type of gathering provides a platform for exchange of knowledge and experience and needs to be replicated at the country or regional level to leverage success from country to country.

Additional conference information and images of the participants can be found on the Alliance’s website:


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.3 million nurses, midwives, doctors and public health workers are needed in low- and middle-income countries in the next two decades to fill the projected human resource gap.  Of the children under the age of 5 who die each year, almost 2/3 could be saved by health workers in clinics and in their communities. 

In September, 2011 members at the UN General Assembly, committed to tackle the unprecedented rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries--80% of the world’s deaths from NCDs occur in these settings. An adequate health work force is a fundamental prerequisite for strong and efficient health systems.  Many of the 28.8 million deaths could have been prevented if these countries had more health care workers to prevent, diagnose and treat these conditions.

The goal of the Summit was to bring private foundations and new funders into the conversation on improving global health by investing in the health care workforce.   Philanthropy in global health has typically not targeted workforce development as part of health system strengthening, but rather has historically supported disease-specific initiatives with minimal investment in the health care workforce as essential infrastructure.

The Summit served as a platform for active exchange to identify workable strategies to strengthen human resources for health and to spark investment and action by interested funders, foundations and institutions.

Objectives of the Summit:

·         Articulate a range of strategic investments that have potential to efficiently strengthen the global

health care workforce;

·         Present, discuss and learn from evidence-based strategies for health workforce development; and

·         Strengthen partnerships and scale-up collaborations and commitments among funders and

organizations that can effectuate health workforce strengthening.

Strategies for Engagement:

·         Convene leaders of foundations, funders and select public and private organizations;

·         Draw on lessons learned from health care workforce initiatives;

·         Build lasting partnerships;

·         Encourage collaborations around regional and national focused initiatives; and

·         Catalyze implementation of strategic health care workforce initiatives.

For full final conference details, please see the brochure (pdf) here:

To contact the Summit organizers, please email

For reporters interested in conducting post-conference interviews with the participants, please contact Christopher James at 212-998-6876 or

About the New York University College of Nursing  NYU College of Nursing is a global leader in nursing education, research, and practice. For more information, visit

Press Contact

Christopher James
Christopher James
(212) 998-6876