WHD 2020

World Health Day 2020

Health for all and by all!

In an era where primary health care is a priority, the strengthening of health systems is crucial to implement horizontal programs that could provide high quality health services.  Besides, health systems are continuously evolving, and the delivery of healthcare is becoming more interconnected. However, with increasing demands and shortage of workers, among other challenges, innovative approaches are vital to maximise the use of resources and health service in the quest for Universal Health Coverage. Therefore, coordinating service provisions between different health workers, and collaborating is increasingly important.

The WHO defines Interprofessional Collaborative Practice as “when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive services by working with patients, their families, carers, and communities to deliver the highest quality of care across settings” [1]. This definition entails both clinical and non-clinical health-related work. In its simplest form, interprofessional collaboration is the practice of tackling health-related issues from a team-based perspective. According to the World Health Organization, by implementing interprofessional collaboration and learning to work together and respecting the different perspectives in healthcare, multiple disciplines can work more effectively as a team leading to stronger health systems and improved health outcomes [1].

Interprofessional Collaboration and Health Emergencies:

In the current crisis the world is facing, interprofessional collaboration is a key element for alleviation of suffering. Epidemics and pandemics bring sudden and intense demands, putting a huge burden on the health system. In the event of a global epidemic or natural disaster, health workers must have the knowledge and skills to mobilize the available resources and expertise within the health system and the broader community. Interprofessional education and collaboration provides health workers with such skills that can help facilitate the coordination of healthcare delivery during emergencies. Collaboration among health workers can, as well, enhance the response capacities to health security issues, and is the only way to manage the crisis [1].

Barriers to Collaboration

There are many challenges to the health workforce and interprofessional collaboration.  Such challenges include inequality, discrimination and stigmatisation, lack of recognition and understanding, and lack of willingness to collaborate in addition to organizational structures. In a study called “The Woodhull Study on Nursing and the Media: Health Care’s Invisible Partner” conducted in 1997, an analysis of more than 20.000 published papers in the US was carried out. Findings showed that less than 1% of those papers mentioned nurses as references to their papers and only 14% mentioned nurses at all [3]. The study was updated in 2017 and numbers have not changed significantly, nurses were mentioned in 13% of articles and as 2% of resources for those. This study shows the unequal representation of different members of the health workforce, as well as the lack of interprofessionalism and equal contribution. 

Violence in the work settings is another major challenge. With growing work pressure and stress, social instability and the deterioration of personal interrelationships, workplace violence is rapidly spreading in healthcare settings [4]. While ambulance staff are reported to be at greatest risk, nurses are three times more likely on average to experience violence in the workplace than other occupational groups [5]. The gender dimension of the problem is also very evident, as the large majority of the health workforce is female [5].

The consequences of violence at work include a deterioration in the quality of care provided and affection of the decision-making by health workers, which, in turn, have a significant impact on the effectiveness of health systems, particularly in developing countries [4][5].  The availability and equal access to primary health care is endangered if the health workers, already a scarce human resource, feel unsafe in their working environment [4][5].

Health for all and by all!

The IFMSA acknowledges that health is a complex, rapidly expanding and developing sector. The IFMSA believes in the importance of Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice as a key measure to improve the quality of healthcare and promote people centred care, and as a crucial building block of universal health coverage. We also reaffirm that health workers are key actors in health systems, and should be entitled to decent working conditions in terms of employment rights, social protection and safe environment and should be actively engaged in the decision making process. We encourage mutual respect between fellow health workers, embracing different views and exploring ideas, as well as collective and collaborative decision making. Finally, we believe that to achieve health for all, involving all is crucial to learn together to work together for better health.

For further information, check the WHO’s campaign resources and materials through this link (here)


  1. Framework for action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. World Health Organization.
  2. Framework Guidelines for Addressing Workplace Violence in the Health Sector. International Labour Office, International Council of Nurses, World Health Organization, Public Services International (2002).
  3. Sigma Theta Tau International. The Woodhull study on nursing and the media: Health care’s invisible partner. (1997). Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International, Center Nursing Press. Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/10755/624124
  4. Framework Guidelines for Addressing Workplace Violence in the Health Sector. International Labour Office, International Council of Nurses, World Health Organization, Public Services International (2002).
  5. Vittorio di Martino. Workplace violence in the health sector: Synthesis Report. World Health Organization (2002).
  6. Mason, D.J., Nixon, L., Glickstein, B., Han, S., Westphaln, K. and Carter, L. (2018),  The Woodhull Study Revisited: Nurses’ Representation in Health News Media 20 Years Later. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50: 695-704. doi:10.1111/jnu.12429

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