Investments in frontline health workers save millions of women’s and children’s lives, enhance global health security efforts, and bear tremendous economic returns. Frontline health workers provide life-saving services directly to communities, where they are needed more, especially in remote and rural areas. New evidence reveals the economic return on investment in health is 9 to 1.
Improving access to health workers with the right skills, in the right numbers, and in the right places is crucial to global health progress. Threats such as Ebola and Zika can be halted when health workers coordinate community-level prevention, detection, and response efforts. Maternal and newborn mortality can largely be prevented when skilled birth attendants are present. The spread of HIV/AIDS can be slowed when health workers promote awareness, conduct testing, and provide treatment.
But the world faces an acute and growing shortage of health workers. More than 400 million people worldwide lack access to essential services provided by frontline health workers. Consequently, millions of people die or are disabled every year from preventable causes. The health workforce shortage is expected to more than double to 18 million by 2030 without immediate and strategic investments.
The U.S. government’s goals of ending preventable child and maternal deaths, achieving an AIDS-free generation, and ensuring global health security cannot be achieved without significantly more support to strengthen the global frontline health workforce. As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa tragically demonstrated, access to competent and supported health workers must no longer languish as a global health policy afterthought.