World Health Assembly Adopts Code of Practice on
International Recruitment of Health Professionals

May 24th, 2010
"The World Health Assembly???s approval of the Code of Practice is an historic step forward both in protecting migrant health workers??? rights and in tackling the catastrophic shortage of trained health professionals in the developing world."

- Mary Robinson

Historic Step in Realizing Right to Health

Surgeons in Kenya Delegates at the 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland have approved the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. This new Code of Practice, only the second of its kind adopted by the WHA, aims to promote the interests of health workers and ameliorate the negative effects from the international migration of health workers on countries experiencing severe health workforce crises.

The effects of health worker migration have been highlighted for many years and continue to seriously undermine efforts by developing nations to ensure adequate health care.

???The World Health Assembly???s approval of the Code of Practice is an historic step forward in recognizing shared responsibilities for realizing the right to health,??? said Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and co-chair of the Health Worker Migration Global Policy Advisory Council. Robinson was in Geneva for the WHA meeting and chaired an event on May 18th to urge approval of the Code.

???The Code affirms that the rights of health professionals, including their right to seek work in other countries, must be protected while addressing the catastrophic shortage of trained health professionals in the developing world,??? Robinson noted.

"I am pleased that governments came together to create an ethical global framework???one which provides clear guidance for governments and the private sector alike as they recruit health workers, recognizing that the benefits of migration must flow to sending as well as receiving nations."

Download draft Code of Practice The new Code provides recommendations around increasing health workforce production, expanding development assistance on the part of major donor nations to help source countries train and retain their health workers, and scaling up reporting and data gathering on the part of nations to track progress.

Though a voluntary instrument, it includes provisions for monitoring efforts by governments to align their policies with its provisions.

???The efforts of so many over all these years are finally coming to fruition. The Code represents a significant international commitment to addressing the impacts of health workforce shortages on health systems in developing countries," said Francis Omaswa, President of the African Center for Health and Social Transformation, Founding Executive Director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance and co-chair of the Health Worker Migration Global Policy Advisory Council.

"For over four years, members of the Health Worker Migration Global Policy Advisory Council have been working for this day," said Peggy Clark, Executive Director of Global Health & Development at The Aspen Institute and head of the secretariat of the Advisory Council that supported the WHO in the process leading to the Code???s adoption.

"With the Code of Practice approved, we are eager to work with countries to ensure its implementation so that communities in Africa and elsewhere who have been hardest hit by the shortage of health professionals can receive the health care they need and deserve. The Code is an important guide for ethical action at the global, regional, national, and local level."

Related Links:

Sixty-third World Health Assembly - 17-21 May 2010

Alliance members and partners applaud Member States - Global Health Workforce Alliance, 21 May 2010

WHO agrees code to stem health care worker exodus - Reuters, 21 May 2010

Global Framework to Address International Migration of Health Workers - 20 May 2010

Health Worker Migration Global Policy Advisory Council Meeting - 01 June 2009

Health Worker Migration: Perspectives from an African Health Worker - Dr. Francis Omaswa

International action on migration of health workers - Listen to an interview with Mary Robinson about the global health worker shortage.

Brain Drain of Healthcare Workers - Peggy Clark comments on rights and responsibilities in addressing health worker migration, 01 Aug. 2008