PAHO highlights the Essential Public Health Functions to build the Global Public Health Workforce

Community health workers

Washington, D.C., 20 March, 2023 (PAHO) – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) participated in the 2023 Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) Annual Meeting that took place on March 15-17 in Arlington, USA, in the session titled "Building the Global Public Health Workforce." 

At this concurrent session, experts presented the PAHO and WHO roadmap and action plan on national workforce capacity to implement the Essential Public Health Functions (EPHF) focusing on emergency preparedness and response, and strengthening health systems. 

“The Essential Public Health Functions are a tool for assessing and strengthening the new capacities of health authorities, which are essential to ensure universal and equitable access to all interventions needed to improve population health,” said James Fitzgerald, Director of PAHO Department of Health Systems and Services.  

The renewed EPHFs approach has a fundamental role in strengthening primary health care and achieving universal access to health. “The EPHF supports the strengthening of institutional capacities needed to strategical expand primary health care, ensuring the full integration of public health interventions throughout all levels of the health system,” Fitzgerald said. Four countries completed the EPHF capacities assessment in the Americas, and 14 additional countries are progressing in its implementation.

During the session, presenters discussed academic and public health strategies to collaborate with global and regional organizations to build a robust public health workforce. James Fitzgerald highlighted how the Americas Health Corps (AHC) Initiative, which aims to address the complex array of challenges in human resources for health that have been exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, can scale capacity to provide basic and specialized training to public health, health science, and medical professionals throughout the Region of the Americas.

“AHC will support efforts to ensure that countries in the Region are better prepared against future public health threats, can rapidly recuperate lost public health gains, and develop resilient health systems towards achieving Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage by 2030,” Fitzgerald said.  

Investing in health systems and a fit-for-purpose health workforce constitutes a priority for the Americas. PAHO continues to work with Member States, partners, and WHO in developing a transformative agenda in human resources for health in the Americas.

The ASPPH Annual Meeting convenes academic public health leaders, faculty, students, and members of the public health community from worldwide for three days to engage in discussions and share new strategies and tools to strengthen education, practice, and research in public health.