In Malawi, it’s no surprise that the families of rural farmers and residents of Lilongwe’s slums have such limited access to health care. The country has only one doctor for every 50,000 people. For a range of economic, political, social and historical reasons — including AIDS and brain drain to NGOs, the private sector and wealthier countries — Malawi has only 260 doctors to care for a population of 13 million.
However, Malawi is making progress. In 1992, it opened the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi in Blantyre, and 168 doctors graduated in the first ten years. There was a 137% increase in doctors between 2004 and 2009. Malawi is also training more nurses than ever before.
Despite this success, Malawi still faces significant challenges. It must retain these doctors and nurses while persuading them to work in isolated, underfunded and overcrowded clinics and paying them less than they would make in other English-speaking countries. According to the WHO, 57 countries have critical shortages of doctors, nurses and midwives. How can you help? Support the Global HEALTH Act.
The Global HEALTH Act will guide and fund the development of a stronger workforce in countries like Malawi. Countries will develop plans for their health systems to build up their human resources for health. A stronger workforce means greater access to care, which is essential to realizing health as a human right. You may not have chosen the Global HEALTH Act for your Global Health Week of Action, but you can still sign the petition to ask your Representative to cosponsor the bill.
Want to take it a step further? Ask your Dean to join other prominent health professionals in signing the letter that PHR will send to your Representative — Members of Congress are busy people, but they respond to experts. Present the sign-on letter (pdf) to your Dean or interested faculty member, either directly or via email. You can use this email template (doc) and include this fact sheet (pdf) if you’d like. IMPORTANT: email me at hobrien[at]phrusa[dot]org to let me know when your Dean grants permission to use her or his name.
Your efforts on this important Act can have a big impact both in Congress and to the people of Malawi.