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Leveraging Technology for Global Health

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On 6-7 February, 2013 at the United Nations in New York City, a unique gathering of experts in global health, provider education, health research, and IT will take place. The Global Health Education and Technology Summit (GETHealth Summit) will unite leaders and innovators from health programs, academia, government, and the corporate world to discuss and develop new strategies to leverage information and communication technologies (ICT) to address the global health workforce gap.

The WHO has estimated that there is a global shortage of more than four million trained health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, and other providers). As expected, most of the need is in resource-limited communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For instance, WHO has estimated that Africa has 24 percent of the global burden of disease, but only three percent of the global health workers. Governments and donors are spending billions of dollars to reduce the global deaths from HIV, malaria, TB, childhood illness, complications from childbirth, and chronic disease. However, there are just not enough trained health care workers to ensure that these resources are utilized most effectively. For instance, WHO has also estimated that there is a specific need for more than 700,000 skilled birth attendants to save the lives of millions of mothers and infants from complications of childbirth. While in the US and other western nations more than 95 percent of births are supported by a skilled attendant (doctor, nurse or midwife), in Africa and Southeast Asia less than 50 percent of births have a skilled birth attendant present to help.

"Brain drain" is another challenge. Some have estimated that there are more Ethiopian physicians practicing in the US than in Ethiopia, and more nurses from Malawi practicing in England than in Malawi. Countries like Ethiopia have tried to address this issue by greatly increasing the number of medical students and medical schools. Between 2004 and 2011, enrollment in Ethiopian medical schools increased from 336 to 3,100 students. However, there is also a tremendous shortage of faculty to teach medical students, nursing students, and other health professionals in these communities.

It is very clear that new and innovative strategies are needed to train the large number of health professionals needed for Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is also clear that these strategies must ensure that the quality of training is excellent and that there are new efforts to support the long term training of graduates in their own communities, to reduce brain drain, and to ensure that the communities they serve benefit from more and better trained health care providers. New investments and innovations in ICT are a disruptive and positive force for global change. It is time for the global leaders in health care programs, governments, and academia to partner with ICT innovators and companies to more effectively leverage and scale the power of ICT for improved training of health care workers in the most resource-limited communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is the goal of the GETHealth Summit.

If you share this mission and vision, please register soon for this important gathering in February 2013 (http://www.gethealthsummit.org/) to join the GETHealth Summit Partners, including the Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education, the Global Partnership Forum, the International Telecommunications Union, the UN Office for Partnerships, the World Health Organization Global Workforce Alliance, the World Health Organization Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, the US National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, USAID, the US Presidents Office of Global AIDS Control, the mHealth Alliance, the Hewlett Packard Corporation, Agent of Change, Decision Counsel, and many others. Your participation in the GETHealth Summit is crucial to ensuring that health care workers around the world are well trained and supported to care for our neighbors and communities with the greatest needs.