Policy measures can reverse health worker brain drain

March 20, 2006

Policy measures can reverse the brain drain of health professionals from poor to rich countries, according to the authors of a Public Health article published online today (Tuesday March 21, 2006) by The Lancet.

The migration of qualified health staff to high-income countries has led to a crisis of human resources in low-income countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Barbara McPake and colleagues analysed the health labour markets of four countries--the UK, USA, France and Germany. They found that specific policy measures have driven the growing demand for health staff in high-income countries, and argue that policy measures can therefore reverse the trends.

"The UK benefits more than other high-income countries from health worker emigration from the poorest countries...In the UK, increasing nursing pay would seem to make the single largest contribution to resolving the labour market imbalance that is draining poor countries of their health staff," states Professor McPake.

In the USA, ensuring numbers graduating from medical and nursing schools meet demand will prevent the recruitment of staff from elsewhere state the authors. "Policies should seek to ensure local stability in health labour markets so that shortages of staff are not solved via the international brain drain," they conclude.
-end-
Contact: Dr Barbara McPake, Institute of International Health and Development, Queen Margaret University College, Corstorphine Campus, Edinburgh EH12 8TS, UK. T) 0131 317 3490 bmcpake@qmuc.ac.uk

Lancet

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