Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

MMI Network News, February 2012

photo: HWAI website
photo: HWAI website

Editorial: Advocacy for health workforce issues

Dear reader,

Good news first: The Health Workforce Advocacy Initiative HWAI, the civil society “forum for strategizing, advocacy support, information sharing, and idea and information generation” to address the global health worker shortage is back on stage after a lengthy period of transition. HWAI secretariat shifted from the US based Physicians for Human Rights to MMI Network member Wemos, based in the Netherlands. 

Wemos invited active HWAI members to a strategic planning meeting that took place in Geneva last week. During two days, a group of dedicated civil society representatives discussed the current status of the advocacy initiative, its cooperation with the Global Health Workforce Alliance, the advocacy topics and interventions needed to make a difference in human resources for health (HRH), and, finally, the structure of the HWAI (objectives, specific mandate, membership, steering committee, cooperation between members etc.) needed to deliver these advocacy interventions. Similar to Medicus Mundi International, HWAI will be set up a Network, owned by its members who are responsible both for agenda setting and for the implementation of joint plans. The meeting ended with clearly defined tasks and responsibilities for the next steps to be undertaken in the institutional development of HWAI – and with a lot of renewed commitment and enthusiasm for bringing HWAI up to a next period of successful joint advocacy for human resources for health.

On the other hand, and this is the bad news, participants at the Geneva meeting agreed that human resources issues have much disappeared from the global health agenda. The “3.5 Million health workers” campaign for “more health workers, better supported” turned out to be just a one-off event around the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. last summer. The campaign website still states that there are “309 organisations behind the campaign” (including the MMI Network and some of its members), but today it seems that nobody is really harnessing the results of this great mobilisation effort. The “owners” are now looking for others to lead the campaign.

Almost two years after the adoption of the WHO Code of Practice on international recruitment of health personnel by the World Health Assembly, news about the implementation is scarce. Nobody seems to really know how many countries are going to report back to WHO within the given deadline of May 2012. There is not much WHO leadership visible in steering Code implementation at global level; the related website has not been updated any more since last year. The news that WHO downsized its HRH unit and integrated it into its “Health System Governance and Service Delivery” department with the intention to mainstream HRH has therefore been received with at least mixed feelings. “Bearing HRH glasses” while working in all sectors and at all levels might make sense, but there is a risk that HRH mainstreaming becomes awaystreaming…

On the other hand, human resources are a building block of health systems, and the debate on how to overcome the human resources crisis directly re-opens a very old battlefield*: In a time of scarce resources and high pressure of delivering fast results – see the “raise it, spend it, prove it’” slogan of the former Global Fund director – there is a debate if countries rather invest in proper health centres, staffed with “classic” health workers such as physicians, nurses and midwives, or rather go for more basic health posts, for community health workers with basic training, taking over some of the responsibilities of nurses and doctors (“task shifting”). If civil society organizations start to discuss this issue among themselves, it might be that their easy initial consensus around what “more health workers” really means will fall apart. 

Strategizing, information sharing, idea and information generation, and, finally, undertaking joint advocacy: the platform provided by the Health Workforce Advocacy Initiative is much needed. So welcome back on the scene!

Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary
Medicus Mundi International Network
MMI is a member of HWAI

*I refer to: The new dichotomy in health systems strengthening and the role of global health initiatives: What can we learn from Ethiopia? Gorik Ooms et al. in: Journal of Public Health Policy (2010),; see also: GAVI, Global Fund, World Bank: Support for human resources for health in developing countries. Vujicic et al., HNP 2011,


MMI Network: Events and resources

Network events: Medicus Mundi International Network
Board meeting in Basel, 16 March 2012

The Board meeting in March will focus on reviewing and steering the implementation of the MMI strategy 2011-15 and the three Network programs defined so far. We will also hold a re-launching event of a wider MMI research working group as a side event to the Board meeting in March. An invitation for this half-day side event to the Board meeting was sent to all Network members and those partners having shown their interest in developing a NGO-Research interface. The group, supported by the Board members, will start to develop a proper work plan, and we will have talks and a visit at Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in order to see how they do operational research and what they could offer to the MMI Network and its members. The meeting documentation will soon be available.

MMI Network event: EPN
Access to quality medicines: priority needs, priority actions for today and tomorrow. Addis Ababa, 21-23 March 2012

”The biennial Forum and General meeting of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) is an opportunity for Network members to meet physically to discuss and make critical decisions in relation to the activities of the Network. In 2010, during the EPN Forum in Nairobi, participants from 20 countries discussed strategies for building sustainable pharmaceutical systems and for the delivery of quality pharmaceutical services within the church sector. They came away with a sense that the two day forum provided them with an immeasurable learning experience and access to information and resources that would help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. At next year’s Forum in Addis Ababa, the theme of discussions will be ‘Access to quality medicines: priority needs, priority actions for today and tomorrow’. Mark the date! More information will follow soon.”

MMI Network event: action medeor
Teeth for the tiger - Strengthening the role of the World Health Organization in global health. Berlin, 26 March 2012

"Halfway between the Executive Board meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2012 and the World Health Assembly in May 2012, we will be discussing the current reform process of WHO. The focus will be on analyzing the role of the WHO and the German Government in addressing the Human Resources for Health Crisis and Social Protection. WHO claimed a leadership role in this area with its World Health Reports of 2006 and 2010, in which possible solutions were proposed. German development cooperation is actively working on both issues as well. But how does the interaction between WHO, Germany and the wide range of established global health players actually function? In a following panel discussion, the role of WHO in the 21st century will be discussed." (Conference flyer). The Action for Global Health conference is being co-hosted by action medeor, a member of the MMI Network. Remco van de Pas, Wemos, will contribute with an input on the role of WHO in addressing the human resources crisis.

MMI Network event: aidsfocus – MM Switzerland
Advocacy and HIV. Berne, 17 April 2012

”Advocacy is a key component in the struggle towards an AIDS-free future and the fulfilment of the right to health for all. The conference 2012 will focus on advocacy and open a space for sharing, discussion and joint learning on experiences, visions and strategies to end the epidemic.”

MMI Network event: Swiss TPH – MM Switzerland
eHealth in proof and practice: Opportunities and challenges in international health. Basel, 8 May 2012

”Years ago the concept of ‘eHealth’ was discussed only in its general manifestations, but of course, things change. The focus of the spring symposium will be on the review of evidence and best practice of using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) to enhance health services and population health over the past decade.

MMI Network project: Medicus Mundi Italy
Famine crisis in Burkina Faso: Nevereatalone

"In 2012, Burkina Faso is likely to be affected by a dramatic famine (peak foreseen in the months between April and October 2012). The famine is due to several factors, the main cause being the draught which devastates crops and cattle. The consequent nutritional crisis is going to worsen a chronically deficient nutritional situation. Such months of constant hunger, which might be endurable by adults, are certainly not endurable by infants who depend completely on their mothers, who are malnourished themselves. Medicus Mundi Italy and the Spedali Civili Hospital in Brescia promote the Humanitarian Campaign 'Nevereatalone' in order to prevent severe forms of malnutrition in the most fragile social groups, that is pregnant women and infants.” (Medicus Mundi Italia)

MMI Network publication: EPN
Effective pharmaceutical supply chains: On the road in low income countries

"From manufacturer to patient, that is the road medicines need to take all over the world. In some cases it’s a short distance. For most patients in developing countries, the road is very long. From manufacturer to central medical warehouse, to local supplier, to every small depot, health centre and dispensary, it’s a long road with many bumps and potholes. In this edition of Pharmalink, some of the players in the field of medical supply chain explain problems and challenges to do with forecasting, selection and procurement, inventory management, storage, shelf life and distribution.” (Pharmalink Vol 11, Issue 1, November 2011. A publication of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network EPN)

MMI Network publication: Stop Malaria Now
Interrelation of Malaria Control Interventions and Community Health Systems Strengthening in Kenya

"Malaria control interventions are mostly being implemented within the structures of the local health system with potential to promote the whole system. In contrary health system strengthening initiatives can benefit specific disease control interventions at the same time. In order to find out more on the mutual interrelation between malaria control interventions and strengthening of local health systems, this study was conducted in Kenya between August 2010 and January 2011 at four study sites that randomly sampled a total of 1,416 households. Key-informant interviews were conducted with health personnel, NGO and FBO representatives and community opinion leaders to assess the respondents’ views on key issues and to record key responses on implementation malaria control interventions and their interrelation with health system strengthening initiatives." Interrelation of Malaria Control Interventions and Community Health Systems Strengthening in Kenya. Research report published by Stop Malaria Now and Kenya NGO Alliance Against Malaria. Nairobi/Cologne, April 2011

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Global Health: MMI updates

Bits and pieces of news on international health policy. Each “MMI update” is 140 characters or less - these are the rules of the game on twitter. Just enough for a headline, eventually an author, a date, the source – and a link to the website where you find the full information. Have a look at some of our “tweets” published during the last month. As usual, it’s a bit much, so take it or leave it.

Human resources for health
Migration of health personnel

MMI thematic guide:


Health systems strengthening
Universal health coverage

MMI thematic guide:


NGO debate


…and the role of philanthropy and the private sector


Social determinants of health
Equity and human right to health

MMI thematic guide: 


Beyond 2015, MDGs and SDGs 


Neglected tropical diseases: the debate


Access to medicines

…the EU-India free trade agreement
and the Novartis vs. India Glivec case

…and the ongoing debate on counterfeit drugs


And yet another debate: Malaria mortality figures


World Cancer Day
4 February 2012


The future of the Global Fund


Women’s and children’s health
Reproductive health and rights


Other topics

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