Health workers are "all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health" (World Health Report 2006). These health workers are categorized into two groups:
- Health service providers - the people who deliver services (personal and non-personal), such as physicians, nurses, midwives, dentists, allied health professions, community health workers and volunteers, social health workers and other health-care providers.
- Health management and support workers - the people not engaged in the direct provision of services - they may not deliver services directly but are essential to effective health system functioning, such as health services managers, medical records and health information technicians, health technicians, medical secretaries and others.
Workers in health systems around the world are experiencing increasing stress and insecurity as they react to a complex array of forces. Ageing population, new diseases as well as increasing burden of current diseases, escalating conflicts and violence, are all challenges to which the workforce must be prepared to respond.
The unmistakable imperative is to strengthen the workforce so that health systems can tackle crippling diseases and achieve national and global health goals. A strong human infrastructure is fundamental to closing today’s gap between health promise and health reality, and anticipating the health challenges of the 21st century.