Towards a sustainable health workforce in the WHO European Region: framework for action

What is the Framework for Action?

In 2017, the 67th session of the Regional Committee  (EUR/RC67/R5) adopted the regional  Framework  for Action Towards a Sustainable Health Workforce in the WHO European Region. The overall goal of the framework is to accelerate progress towards achieving long term population health goals for Member States by sustaining transformed and effective health workforce within strengthened health systems. The Framework for Action aims to achieve a sustainable health workforce in the WHO European Region to meet these needs. It outlines 4 key strategic objectives, enablers for action and cross-cutting considerations. The four strategic objectives are:

  1. To transform professional, technical and vocational education and training and to optimize the performance, quality and impact of human resources for health;
  2. To align investment in human resources for health with the current and future needs of the population and of health systems through effective planning;
  3. To build the capacity of human resource for health related institutions for effective policy stewardship, leadership and governance; and
  4. To improve the evidence based, strengthen data and applications that support analytical approaches to human resources for health policy and planning.

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Who are the health workforce?

The Framework for Action adopts a broad and inclusive definition of the health workforce, which covers all workers in the health services, public health and in related areas, and workers who provide support to these activities. This broad scope usually includes, but is not limited to, health professionals, other health and social care workers, informal carers, support staff, administrators and managers. Such workers can be located in one or more environments, such as public health, primary and community care, long-term care, secondary and tertiary care, or in support functions.

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How is the Framework for Action aligned with other WHO policies?

The Framework for Action translates and builds on the visions laid out by the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 and the UN High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth. The European Framework for Action is grounded in the health labour market framework approach and sets out key strategic objectives for Member States in the European Region in terms of education and performance, planning and investment, capacity building, and analysis and monitoring.

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How is WHO supporting Member States to implement the Framework for Action?

WHO has developed a range of supports and resources to assist Member States in building sustainable health workforces in line with the Framework for Action:

  • The Toolkit for a Sustainalbe Health Workforce in the WHO European Region has been developed to support policy-makers, human resources for health (HRH) planners and professionals, and other stakeholders, such as education institutions and those implementing policy. It is framed around 4 strategic domains mirroring the themes of the Framework for Action – education and performance, planning and investment, capacity-building, and analysis and monitoring – and proposes policy options and implementation modalities.
  • The National Health Workforce Accounts (NHWA) is a system by which countries can progressively improve the availability, quality and use of health workforce data. Information generated by the NHWAs can assist Member States in the EURO Region to develop health workforce policies, strategies and planning options to support the delivery of national health policy objectives. Progressive implementation of the NHWAs will enable:
    • a better understanding of the health workforce, its characteristics, size and distribution
    • strengthened human resources information systems and research to guide policy decision
    • multi-stakeholder and intersectoral policy dialogue for health workforce strengthening
    • improved prioritisation and planning of investment in the development of a sustainable health workforce towards universal health coverage.
  • WHO Regional Office for Europe has prepared a resource pack that may be of assistance to Member States in using the NHWA to tackle health workforce challenges in line with the Framework for Action.

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