Strengthening the health workforce to implement public health interventions in the South-Eastern European Health Network: lessons learned from a technical meeting


Ingrid Zuleta, M. Dieleman, P. Zwanikken

Through the WHO European Region’s Health 2020 policy framework, countries agreed to work together on policy priorities for public health such as strengthening people-centred public health systems and public health capacity. Alongside the Health 2020 strategy, the seventh of the 10 essential public health operations devised by the WHO Regional Office for Europe focuses on assuring a sufficient and competent public health workforce.

The Regional Office has supported the health activities of the South-Eastern European Health Network through a series of technical meetings on the health workforce since 2011. This article reports the results of SEEHN technical meeting on human resources for public health, organized by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and analyses these results in the context
of universal health coverage. During the meeting, through a series of interactive activities, participants shared details of eight successful public health interventions and discussed and analysed strategies addressing human resources for health to improve the public health workforce. The public health interventions matched the specific national burden of disease and especially the national health policy priorities. In most cases they involved a multisectoral approach, and all interventions included multidisciplinary teams. The interventions mainly addressed the public health workforce in terms of education; five included training courses. Accreditation of training programmes, adjusted job descriptions for public health specialists and advocacy to show the importance of public health professionals were used in the other three interventions.

It is clear that training as a strategy to improve the public health workforce was a popular option; in most cases it was the only strategy used. This could indicate a lack of skills and experience on how to adapt the workforce to implement public health interventions using a variety of strategies for human resources for health, such as task shifting, supervision and career planning, among others. Global and regional policies and guidelines on
human resources for health propose a variety of strategies to build and strengthen the health workforce. Therefore, it is now crucial to advocate strategies beyond training to continue to support the strengthening of the public health workforce.