Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Medicine in developing countries

International action on migration of health workers

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 21 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2065
  1. Karen McColl, freelance writer
  1. 1Savoie, France
  1. karen{at}

    Mary Robinson, co-chair of WHO’s working group on health worker migration policy, tells Karen McColl about a proposed global code of practice on international recruitment of health workers

    The migration of doctors, nurses, and other health service staff from developing countries already short of health workers can be disastrous for health systems that are struggling to cope. A quarter of doctors and one in 20 nurses trained in Africa are working in countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.1 So some of the world’s poorest countries, having educated and trained these health workers, are essentially subsidising the world’s richest health systems.

    Earlier this month world leaders meeting in New York pledged to train one million health workers by 2015 and tackle migration of health workers.2 “There needs to be more understanding in the developed world that if you draw doctors and nurses from poor countries you are getting a development gain because you haven’t had to pay for their education,” explains the former Irish president and UN high commissioner Mary Robinson, who co-chairs the World Health Organization’s advisory council on health worker migration global policy along with Francis Omaswa …

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