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Publication date: 
June 10, 2022


Investing in the health workforce is key to achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals. However, achieving these Goals requires addressing a projected global shortage of 18 million health workers (mostly in low- and middle-income countries). Within that context, in 2016, the World Health Assembly adopted the WHO Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030. In the Strategy, the role of official development assistance to support the health workforce is an area of interest. The objective of this study is to examine progress on implementing the Global Strategy by updating previous analyses that estimated and examined official development assistance targeted towards human resources for health.


We leveraged data from IHME’s Development Assistance for Health database, COVID development assistance database and the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System online database. We utilized an updated keyword list to identify the relevant human resources for health-related activities from the project databases. When possible, we also estimated the fraction of human resources for health projects that considered and/or focused on gender as a key factor. We described trends, examined changes in the availability of human resources for health-related development assistance since the adoption of the Global Strategy and compared disease burden and availability of donor resources.


Since 2016, development assistance for human resources for health has increased with a slight dip in 2019. In 2020, fueled by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it reached an all-time high of $4.1 billion, more than double its value in 2016 and a 116.5% increase over 2019. The highest share (42.4%) of support for human resources for health-related activities has been directed towards training. Since the adoption of the Global Strategy, donor resources for health workforce-related activities have on average increased by 13.3% compared to 16.0% from 2000 through 2015. For 47 countries identified by the WHO as having severe workforce shortages, the availability of donor resources remains modest.


Since 2016, donor support for health workforce-related activities has increased. However, there are lingering concerns related to the short-term nature of activities that donor funding supports and its viability for creating sustainable health systems.


Micah, A.E., Solorio, J., Stutzman, H. et al. Development assistance for human resources for health, 1990–2020. Hum Resour Health 20, 51 (2022).