Investments in frontline health workers save millions of women’s and children’s lives, enhance global health security, and result in tremendous economic and social returns, both globally and domestically. Frontline health workers provide lifesaving services to communities with the least access to quality care, especially in remote and rural areas.
However, global health progress will stall without immediate action to facilitate greater and more strategic investment in frontline health workforces. A 2018 Lancet commission found more than 8 million people die annually in low- and middle-income countries because of “inadequate access to quality care,” resulting in $6 trillion in economic losses.
By and large, communities with the highest maternal and child death rates, as well as the greatest burden of disease — from Ebola, Zika, HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, plus noncommunicable diseases — are also the same communities with the least access to quality health workforces. Without bold leadership and investment, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects a shortage of at least 18 million health workers by 2030.
Investments in health have been shown to yield 9-to-1 returns, offering the massive potential to create 40 million new health worker jobs worldwide by 2030 and spark greater economic empowerment for women. Multisectoral investment in frontline health workers can halt outbreaks like Ebola and Zika, control disease epidemics, prevent millions of maternal and child deaths, and support resilient and self-reliant health systems.