Save the Children Says Global Health Worker Shortage Requires Urgent Attention

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Tanya Weinberg, 202-640-6647 (W), 202-247-6610 (M)

WESTPORT, Conn. (July 20, 2011) — More than 250 organizations including Save the Children, ONE, and health associations from around the world have joined to urge world leaders to address a devastating capacity gap in the global health work force.

The World Health Organization has recently estimated a shortfall of 3.5 million health workers, which leaves hundreds of millions of people at risk of needless suffering, disability and death. 

The growing coalition of groups, listed at www.healthworkerscount.org, is urging action to fill the gaps in the health workforce and to better equip and support existing health workers. Attention to health workers for the most underserved communities is particularly urgent to more quickly eliminate the preventable deaths of millions of women and children.  

“World leaders must decide that the health and survival of many millions is worth their attention,” said Mary Beth Powers, who leads Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign. “Right now, millions of young children die every year from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea simply because they don’t receive the most basic care from a trained health worker. As a mother myself, the thought of being without health care for my children is unimaginable.”

“In most cases this care need not come from a doctor,” Powers added. “Training a million additional community health workers and midwives, and adding new skills and better support to those already in place in developing countries would dramatically decrease deaths to mothers and children. It’s a great return on investment — for as little as $300, a local community member can be trained as a health worker to deliver simple lifesaving solutions to children in need.”

Adventurer Takes Rubik’s Cube up Mt. Everest to Press for Solutions

Unusual partners are getting involved in this effort. American adventurer Charlie Wittmack whose creation and pursuit of the “world’s toughest triathlon” landed him extensive coverage on ESPN over the past week has joined with Save the Children to help close the health worker gap in Nepal.

To complete The World Tri, Wittmack swam 250 miles down the Thames River and across the English Channel, biked and ran across Europe and Asia, and then climbed Mount Everest. At the summit, he attempted one final challenge before announcing his support for Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign. See if he succeeded in the video above.

To complete The World Tri, Wittmack swam 250 miles down the Thames River and across the English Channel, biked and ran across Europe and Asia, and then climbed Mount Everest. At the summit, he attempted one final challenge before announcing his support for Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign. 

“I’m joining the race to save mothers’ and children’s lives, because I believe no woman should die in childbirth and no child should die just because of where they were born,” Wittmack said. “Nepal has given me some of the most thrilling experiences of my life, so I’m focusing my fundraising efforts there.  I really want to be part of making sure all mothers and children are in reach of a trained health worker.”

Although very poor, Nepal has shown how a country can dramatically reduce child mortality by bringing basic health services closer to communities, often by training local women as health volunteers in rural areas where there were few doctors. But many communities in Nepal have not yet been reached. In partnership with the country’s ministry of health, Save the Children and other partners are working to expand the reach of this successful and sustainable model for improving access to health care and saving lives.

To learn more about Charlie Wittmack and to “See where the good goes” when a community health worker is trained, check out Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign at www.GoodGoes.org.

Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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