Document Type: Commentary
Regional Office for Africa, World Health Organization (WHO), Republic of Congo, Africa
Global Health Dialogue, Buea, Cameroon
A decade ago, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 24% of the global disease burden but was served by only 4% of the global health workforce. The chronic shortage of medical doctors has led other health professionals especially nurses to perform the role of healthcare providers. These health workers have been variously named clinical officers, health officers, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physician associates and non-physician clinicians (NPCs) defined as “health workers who have fewer clinical skills than physicians but more than nurses.” Although born out of exigencies, NPCs, like previous initiatives, seem to have come to stay and many more medical doctors are being trained to care for the sick and to supervise other health team members. Physicians also have to assume new roles in the healthcare system with consequent changes in medical education.