Opening Remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at the Workshop on Health Professional Education in the Western Pacific Region

Manila, Philippines
9 June 2013

Distinguished participants, Honoured guests, Ladies and gentlemen:

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Workshop on Health Professional Education in the Western Pacific Region.

Rapid changes around the world are transforming health-care environments, services and health professional education in countries.

The role of health professionals is being shaped by global demographic, epidemiologic, socioeconomic and scientific trends.

Many countries in the Region are still experiencing shortages of health professionals including qualified educators. Workforce shortages combined with skill-mix imbalances and a concentration of health workers in cities leave many people without access to quality health services.

Our regional human resources for health analysis revealed several recurring educational issues.

The challenges we face include:

• Shortages of qualified educators;
• Inadequate budgets and resources of educational institutions in some developing countries;
• Poor linkages between service demands and educational outputs means that educational programmes must be brought in line with countries' health-care needs;
• Curricula need to be updated in many countries to focus on changing health priorities;
• Traditional teaching and learning methods often based on rote learning – should refocus on student development of critical thinking, clinical reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Simply producing more health professionals is not enough. Major transformations are required to respond to the changing needs of population groups impacted by emerging disease outbreaks, rapid rises in injuries, noncommunicable and chronic diseases and technological advances.

Universal access to quality health services and, in turn, improved health outcomes require scaling up and reforming our educational and health systems to address not only the quantity, but also the quality and relevance of education in health professions.

Innovation in education requires the exchange of ideas to foster the development of effective thinking and perceptive skills, strategies and techniques.

Education must promote not only critical thinking, but also understanding and acceptance of differences and alternative points of view.

It is commendable that health workforce leaders, educators, representatives of regulatory and accreditation bodies and the educational sector are gathering in this workshop to review and share experiences and innovations in health professional education.

This workshop will highlight critical areas for strategic interventions to foster innovation in health professional education to ensure its responsiveness and relevance to health system and population needs.

Thank you all for being a part of this process.