Health Worker Shortages and Inequalities: The Reform of United States Policy

Paula O’Brien and Lawrence O. Gostin

The United States and other rich countries have done very little to address the dire global shortage of health workers. In some instances, the conduct of the world’s richest countries has exacerbated the shortages experienced in poor countries. We advocate that the Obama Administration adopt two principal strategies to assist with solving the global health workforce crisis. The first strategy requires that a significant part of the U.S.’s development assistance for health be shifted towards building health systems in partner countries, in particular training and employing health workers to deal holistically with the most pressing health problems experienced by the poor. Secondly, the U.S. should pursue a high level of national self-sufficiency in its health workforce and not continue its heavy reliance on recruitment of migrant health workers to fulfill the demand for health workers in the U.S.