World Health Day 2006 – Working together for health

This year, World Health Day is devoted to health workers: the most valuable resource for ensuring the delivery of high-quality services to improve people's health.

Context: European health systems

Health systems across the WHO European Region are undergoing complex transformations working towards better health, including achieving the Millennium Development Goals. While human resources are increasingly recognized as crucial to progress, health workforce issues are some of the most complex and difficult to handle. Health systems are labour intensive, demanding experienced staff to function well. To improve health services' performance, countries need health workforces that are:

  • sufficient in numbers;
  • well educated and trained; and
  • adequately deployed, managed and motivated.

Situation and challenges

The health workforce has traditionally ranked low on the health policy agenda, reflecting poor human resource management and regulation. Workers providing health services are often seen as a burden, rather than a capital asset. As a result, all countries in the Region face chronic problems with human resources, including fragmented planning and skills shortages, unbalanced distribution, migration, low productivity and poor working conditions of health workers.