The World Health Organization has issued a warning for yet another dire consequence of the global economic crisis: the “severe medical workforce crisis” in Africa and Asia, is expected to get worse.
The most recent World Health Report from 2006 estimates that Africa and Asia lack more than 4 million health workers combined. The WHO-sponsored Global Health Work Alliance estimates that 1 in 4 doctors and 1 in 20 nurses will leave Africa to pursue higher-paying jobs abroad.
The repercussions for health worker brain drain are severe, especially in rural communities where access to medical care is limited. In Ghana there is only one doctor per 17,700 citizens — the majority of whom practice in the country's two largest cities. The UN news agency reports that in Ghana the scarcity of doctors and the high cost of medical care are driving some pregnant women to turn to prayer camps, trying to use prayer to get through labor pains.
In an interesting twist, the economic downturn in Europe and the U.S. has driven many well-educated migrants to leave troubled financial hubs like London and New York City and return to their respective home countries in Africa and Asia — a phenomenon some are calling reverse brain drain. As reported in World Focus' online radio show, “Though the U.S. has often been called the "land of opportunity," the country is losing some of its top minds to companies overseas.“
It hasn't hit the health sector yet, but reverse brain drain could help ease the heath-worker crisis. Perhaps a financial recession for some could prove to be a time to regain talent for others.