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For Immediate Release

First-Ever Guide for Building Human Rights into Health Workforce Planning, in Africa and Beyond, Released in Mexico City

Cambridge, Mass - 08/04/2008

(Mexico City) Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), in consultation with numerous African NGOs, government officials, and individual health professionals, is releasing a guide today that shows how even very poor countries can build human rights into their health workforce planning and raise the standard of health among their citizens. The document is called "The Right to Health and Health Workforce Planning: A Guide for Government Officials, NGOs, Health Workers and Development Partners."

The guide already has its fans:

I find this document impressive, accessible, and groundbreaking. When one reads the document one can't but be amazed by the intense and intensive, broad and detailed consultations that have gone into this unique publication. It should be a pocket book to every health professional, a bible to every Minister of Health, a guiding star for every health and human rights expert and novice.

--Maxwell V. Madzikanga, Senior HIV/AIDS Researcher to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health

This document, both a practical manual and a manifesto, explains why a rights-based approach to health workforce planning is needed, and how countries can design a plan that assures everyone, including marginalized groups, the right to health.

Said co-author Eric A. Friedman, JD, PHR's Senior Global Health Policy Advisor, "Everyone deserves the right to health, but not everyone is allowed entry into the process of plotting out a country's health care plan. Yet countries that include input from marginalized groups are better able to reach those groups with health services. We want to show why a country should use human rights in its health planning, and then how to go about doing it."

Friedman was the first advocate to publicly discuss in depth the issue of Africa's health workforce shortage in the Physicians for Human Rights report, "An Action Plan to Prevent Brain Drain," released at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Since then, Physicians for Human Rights has initiated a successful campaign on the issue of Africa's health worker shortage and health system crisis. Among its successes, PHR was instrumental in the US plan to earmark funding for 140,000 health workers in Africa through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which was reauthorized last week.

The guide outlines the groups that must be incorporated in the planning process from the start, and why. These include people living with HIV/AIDS, people with other disabilities, front line health workers, women, ordinary health systems users, home health caregivers, and traditional medicine practitioners.

In addition, the guide pays special attention to ways that planners can extend care to rural and other underserved areas. For example, it discusses the COBES Program (Community Based Education and Service) program, a successful initiative run by Uganda's Makerere University, which teaches students to provide health care in rural areas.

The guide also discusses specific benchmarks that countries can use to gauge how they are doing, and the role of accountability and follow up in country workforce plans.


Date: Monday, 4 August 2008
Time: 11h00 - 11h45
Venue: Room 2 (Mayas), Media Centre, Hall A, Level 1,
Centro Banamex, Mexico City

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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