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Public health workers 

Public health workers
Chapter:
Public health workers
Author(s):

Suwit Wibulpolprasert

and Piya Hanvoravongchai

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199218707.003.0101
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date: 20 June 2019

The Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) defines ‘health’ as: ‘A state of complete physical, mental, social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of diseases and infirmity’. This broad perspective of health underscores its multi-factorial nature. Health improvement depends much on the educational status (particularly of women), and other socioeconomic development, as well as on the development of healthcare systems (Roemer 1991; World Health Organization 1999) (Fig. 12.11.1).‘Health workers’, as defined in the World Health Report (2006), includes ‘all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health’. According to the Joint Learning Initiative (2004) and the WHO (2006), health workers are a crucial component of the health sector because they manage all other financial and non-financial resources. Workers are also the key to improving the performance of the health system in regards to quality, efficiency and accessibility of health services.

This chapter focuses on an important group of health workers, the public health workforce. They are at the core of the health system in delivering public health interventions to achieve health goals. This chapter is divided into four sections: (1) background on public health workers, including the definition, their roles and functions, and their importance to public health; (2) key management principles necessary for an effective, efficient, and equitable public health workforce system; (3) a specific case of frontline public health workers, namely, community health workers (CHWs); and (4) definition, history, and functions of CHWs, as well as the keys to successful and efficient management of this group. It concludes by addressing key challenges to public health workforce development.

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