Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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This report on the Guidelines for Transforming and Scaling up Health Professional Education and Training provides a set of recommendations that are evidence-informed, practical, and relevant to ensure that globally there is a health professional workforce that meets the health care needs of the 21st century.

The primary goal in developing the Guidelines was to provide health policy-makers and other important stakeholders with evidence-informed guidelines to better understand the issues and to provide strategies to achieve transforming and scaling  up of the education and training of health professionals that will contribute to health system strengthening and improve health outcomes.

The key objective for creating this report was to develop guidelines that would provide concrete implementation considerations that ensure equitable access to health services and aim at policy development for a workforce, with the right skills-mix and deployed rationally across different levels of care. A workforce is needed that is accessible to all citizens, and stays motivated to produce high quality services efficiently.

The guidelines aim to:

1.  provide sound policy and technical guidance in the area of pre-service education, particularly to countries experiencing shortages of health professionals;

2.  foster the integration of continuing professional development (CPD) as part of  health professionals’ education scale-up, in order to ensure excellence of care, responsive health service delivery and sustainable health systems;

3. define and provide guiding principles for transforming and scaling up health professionals’ education and training.

Before developing the recommendations, the following definitions were used to guide the process:

“The transformative scale-up of health professionals’ education and training is defined as the expansion and reform of health professionals’ education and training to increase the quantity, quality and relevance of health professionals so as to best meet population health needs and expectations in an equitable and efficient manner and, in so doing, strengthen countries’ health systems and improve population health outcomes.”

Transformation and scaling up of education and training is a multidimensional process that involves not only increasing the number of health professionals, but also more importantly, ensuring that they have the knowledge, skills and competencies relevant to the needs of the population. This process also requires building the institutional capacity to produce and employ the desired number and skill mix of health professionals in a sustainable manner. Additionally, this process includes the development of a sufficient and competent workforce of educators and trainers, the utilization of effective education methods, and access to adequate infrastructure, equipment and learning tools.

Why is WHO developing guidelines?

In 2006, the World Health Assembly (WHA) called on all Member States to contribute to a rapid scaling up of the production of health workers (resolution WHA59.23, Box 3). The resolution also called for the development of national comprehensive health workforce strategies.

Box 3. Excerpts of WHA Resolution 59.23 – Rapid scaling up of health workforce production

The Fifty-ninth World Health Assembly,
Recognizing that shortages of these health workers are interfering with efforts to achieve the internationally agreed health-related development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration, and those of WHO's priority programmes;
Recognizing the importance of achieving the goals of self-sufficiency in health workforce development,
…URGES Member States to affirm their commitment to the training of more health workers by:
(2) promoting training in accredited institutions of a full spectrum of high-quality professionals, and also community health workers, public health workers and paraprofessionals;
(4) promoting the concept of training partnerships between schools in industrialized and developing countries involving exchanges of faculty and students;
(6) using innovative approaches to teaching in industrialized and developing countries, with state-of-the-art teaching materials and continuing education through the innovative use of information and communications technology….

Source: WHO (2006b).