2nd Annual Global Health Conference 2020: Role of health care workers in a resilient and robust health workforce

This year’s Global Health Conference brought global health researchers, students, and organizations together to discuss the next steps in achieving a robust health workforce. Held on January 22 2020, this half-day event was hosted by UBC’S School of Population and Public Health and Center of International Child Health (CICH) at BC Children’s Hospital and held in at the Chan Auditorium at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

The conference kicked off with a lunch session where delegates had the chance to learn about global health initiatives run by clinicians, trainees, and researchers at UBC. A wide range of disciplines were represented, from the PRE-EMPT research study, to UBC Midwifery international clinical placements, to the I’m a HIPpy program. This was followed by opening remarks from Dr Deborah Money, who shared wise words on the current human resources crisis within the field of global health:

“Nurses are at the heart of resilient and responsive health systems. Nurses represent 50% of the health workforce but also 50% of the shortage of health workforce.”

The first keynote speaker, Dr Tim Evans (Director and Associate Dean of McGill’s School of Population and Global Health), discussed the role of health workers in creating resilient and responsive health systems. His talk highlighted the ‘social organizational failures’ that hinder access to health care in resource-poor countries, and the need to of the current health education system to support transformative, life-long learning, as well as informative learning.  Dr Evans then moderated a panel discussion on equity in the global health workforce, featuring Dr Angeli Rawat, Dr Elizabeth Saewyc, Dr Dorothy Shaw, and Dr Padma Venkatasubbu. Each panelist drew on their personal experiences to emphasize the need to improve equity for healthcare workers, both in the training that they receive and in the care they give.

The second keynote speaker was Dr Stephen Rulisa (Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and former Dean of the School of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Rwanda), who shared how the Human Resources for Health (HRH) program in Rwanda helped build a sustainable healthcare system. In 2011, Rwanda only had 625 physicians and 8,200 nurses serving a population of 10 million. In just 7 years, Rwanda doubled the number of physicians, substantially improved the quality of training and competency of their residents, strengthened patient care, and improved national and global collaborations. During the Q&A, Stephen shared a very impressive fact with the audience – Rwanda uses drones to bring blood to any health center within 20 minutes! This was followed by a second panel on human resources in the context of conflict and recovery, featuring Dr Lynda Redwood-Campbell, Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, Dr Rulisa, Dr Patricia Spittal, and Dr Meaghan Thumath and moderated by Simona Powell. Since peace is the primary determinant of health in conflict and post-conflict states, healthcare workers in fragile settings have to learn how to be peacemakers, not just caregivers. This requires learning new skills like negotiation and building trust within the community.

The evening ended with closing remarks from the Conference Chairs, Dr Gina Ogilvie and Dr Mark Ansermino, followed by a reception where delegates networked and developed new global health collaborations. Overall, the conference provided an excellent platform for exposing passionate global health researchers, trainees, and practitioners to multifaceted discussions on strengthening the global health workforce.

To learn more about the global health workplace that takes place at UBC and CICH, follow @ubcspph and @cichinfo on Twitter.