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E-training Urged to Shape a New Health Workforce in Latin America and the Caribbean

Shift toward primary health care based systems creates new needs in human resources development

Washington, D.C., September 29, 2010 (PAHO) — Health leaders meeting at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) this week endorsed the use of virtual learning programs to give health personnel the knowledge and skills needed in new primary health care based health systems.

Ministers of health from PAHO member countries said the gaps between current skills and the demands of emerging health systems require a new training approach that uses “e-learning” to reach larger numbers of personnel, provides “permanent education” opportunities, and emphasizes skills for leadership, administration and management.

In the past decade, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have been increasingly moving toward primary health care based health systems to better meet growing expectations for the public sector to provide more and better health coverage.

The shift has included efforts to expand health coverage, integrate health service delivery networks, and reduce the segmentation of health systems. It also includes new models of care that emphasize family and community health and a preventive, intercultural and comprehensive approach to providing services.

These changes have exacerbated a disconnect between the offerings of higher education in health and the new needs of the public health sector, in terms of both content and capacity. The approach advocated this week includes virtual learning to deliver quality programs to much larger numbers of people and a focus on “permanent education,” to help participants change their organizations in their real working context.   

The approach is fleshed out in a strategy developed by PAHO and endorsed by delegates to the PAHO Directing Council meeting this week. It calls for a reorientation of efforts to educate and train health service personnel through the following lines of action:

  • Adoption of new competency frameworks for public health personnel
  • Development of a strategic learning plan based on the new policies and new priority needs
  • Establishment of learning networks that provide venues for participation by and coordination with educational institutions
  • Creation of a system of incentives for and certification of learning experiences, linked appropriately to professional courses of study
  • Production of open educational resources, to be shared as global public goods among countries within and outside the Americas.
In approving the strategy, the Directing Council called on PAHO to provide support for its implementation through its Virtual Public Health Campus (VPHC), which provides online educational opportunities, and the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (BIREME), which is developing a network of open educational resources.

The PAHO Directing Council brings together ministers of health and other high-level delegates from throughout the Americas each year to set priorities for Pan-American cooperation in health and to guide PAHO’s technical cooperation programs in its Member States.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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