Over the years I have had the distinct privilege of meeting health workers around the world from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and South Africa to India and Brazil. Health workers, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, are the unequivocal backbone of health systems that can oftentimes be severely taxed due to the overwhelming number of people who rely on them for care to the disarray of health systems’ frameworks coupled with a dismal lack of financial allocations to national health care.
Frontline health workers I have met throughout the years. Left to right: Angawadi workers in Delhi, a family planning health worker in Johannesburg, a member of the Health Development Army in Hawassa, Ethiopia, hospital administrators in Lusaka, Zambia, and nurses in Morogoro, Tanzania.
Increasingly, however, health ministries the world over are rolling out and scaling up frontline health worker programs to reach communities that do not have access to health care or who would otherwise have to travel long distances in order to seek it. And despite this, there is still a shortage of 7.2 million trained health workers across the globe. One glaring example of taxed health systems is in west Africa where the Ebola crisis has shown the world that without a stable health system, lives are quickly lost when a major infectious disease threatens and penetrates it. Without a strong health system with highly trained health workers, people die. There is no way around it.
In order to reach the Millennium Development Goals that are nearing every day, more trained health workers are needed in order to save more lives. PSI, a non-profit organization that provides life-saving information, products and services to tackle the most pressing health problems, trains health workers in countries where the need is greatest. Working in 70 countries, PSI saved the lives of 15,441 mothers, prevented 5,644,400 unintended pregnancies, stopped 254,792 new HIV infections, and avoided 273,740 deaths due to diseases like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia that most threaten young children.
Earlier this year, PSI along with Devex asked this pertinent question of over 1490 global health leaders: What is the best buy in global health? 63 percent said, health systems strengthening within the next 5-10 years. As experts in the field, these global health leaders know that without a stable health system, global health goals are largely unachievable.
Why Am I Traveling to Tanzania With PSI, IntraHealth International and Mandy Moore?
Over the course of the next week I will travel with PSI, IntraHealth International, and PSI Ambassador Mandy Moore in Tanzania to report on the work of frontline health workers on the ground and see firsthand how they serve their communities. We will follow a health worker throughout her day and see how she educates women and families about family planning. We will visit clinic owners and talk with their staff. We’ll also visit an IntraHealth-supported male circumcision program in northern Tanzania.
My goal is to share these stories and show why health workers matter; that their work really means the difference between life and death to many.
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Read the Current Issue of PSI Impact
PSI’s current Impact issue covers health workers. You’ll see stories about the ways in which small businesses are reducing maternal mortality, interviews with Ministers of Health, and how family planning drastically changes the lives of women and families among other health worker topics.
Read the latest Impact issue at psiimpact.com/issue-18.