Dr. Tedros Message for the 12th Global Health Compassion Rounds (2) Meeting the basic needs of health workers

7 January, 2023

Dr Tedros notes:

"I look forward to learning about what actions we can take to foster and harness compassion to drive access to Quality Health Services and improved Health outcomes."


Indeed, what actions can the public sector, private sector and civil society take to foster and harness compassion and quality health services? I look forward to hear your thoughts on this.

When I think of compassion in health services, I think primarily of compassion among health workers. First, we should recognise that the compassion of health workers is extraordinary across the world. Typically health workers maintain compassion even in the face of highly challenging work environments. Yet for millions of health workers conditions are intolerable.

The surest way to foster compassion is to promote a positive work environment - an environment where health workers feel valued and are enabled to provide quality care. This can be described in many ways, but on HIFA we have used the acronym SEISMIC: skills, equipment, incentives (including a decent salary), systems support, information, and communication. Not even health workers can be expected to remain equanimous and compassionate when disempowered by a poor work environment.

The buzzword in global health is 'patient-centred care'. Indeed, but it is equally important to have health-worker-centred care. Only by meeting the needs of health workers can the needs of patients be met.

We hear repeatedly from around the world that health workers feel undervalued, especially by the governments and health systems that employ them. This is what drives dissatisfaction, burnout, migration, and industrial action - which in turn lead to poor quality care and poor health outcomes.

An explicit commitment by governments to address the basic needs of health workers (with an emphasis on those needs that translate into quality care), and to measure progress towards meeting those needs, could be transformative. Compassion is hard to measure. But the basic needs of health workers can and should be measured.

I look forward to hear your thoughts.

Best wishes, Neil

Dr Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator

Healthcare Information For All

Global Healthcare Information Network

Working in Official Relations with the World Health Organization

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www.hifa.org neil@hifa.org