Dawn Mangine

    The World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2021 The Year of the Health and Care Worker in recognition of the difficult work front-line healthcare personnel provided (and continue to provide) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme “Protect. Invest. Together.” was created to highlight “the need to invest in health workers for shared dividends in health, jobs, economic opportunity, and equity.”

    Healthcare educators and students play an important role in supporting initiatives for the fair treatment of themselves and their colleagues. Health and care workers should be supported, protected, motivated, and equipped to deliver positive outcomes. This work can start at the classroom level, and grow throughout a healthcare professional’s career.

    Facts and Figures

    • Personnel shortages around the globe amount to about 18 million, and that was even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Other shortages include maldistribution of resources, and misalignment of needs and skills. These shortages are primarily in low- and middle-income countries.
    • According to a survey conducted by the WHO in August 2020, nearly every responding country saw disruptions to essential health services. The reasons were because of staff deployments to deal with COVID-19 (49%); lack of PPE for health providers (44%); and insufficient staffing levels to provide services (29%).
    • A review of healthcare workers reports a prevalence of depression and anxiety (23%), and insomnia (39%) during COVID-19
    • Since February 2020, according to an independent analysis, strike actions have occurred in the healthcare industry in 84 WHO member states due to indecent work (38%) and lack of PPE (29%). (1)

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    What You Can Do

    Educating health and care workers, including nurses, EMS personnel, and allied healthcare workers, will help achieve the WHO’s goal of providing health care for all its member countries. Preparing them to advocate for support, fair regulations, and pay equity will boost the well-being of health workers and their patients.

    According to the WHO,

    “Investing in health workers is good value for money. The report of the UN High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth concluded that investments in education and job creation in the health and social sectors result in a triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security, and inclusive economic growth.”

    Educating workers on the efficacy and safety of immunizations, while also prioritizing access to the COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers, would also be an excellent way to support health and care workers. Other campaign objectives (2) the WHO has for this initiative include:
    • Recognize and commemorate health workers who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Mobilize financial commitments to invest in health and care workers for COVID recovery
    • Create a care compact to protect health and care workers’ rights, decent work, and care environments
    • Bring together communities in solidarity, advocacy, and support for health and care workers



    1. “Year of the Health and Care Workers 2021: Facts.” World Health Organization. 
    2. “Year of the Health and Care Worker: 2021.” World Health Organization.