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Open Access Review

Policy challenges for the pediatric rheumatology workforce: Part III. the international situation

Michael Henrickson

Author Affiliations

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA

Pediatric Rheumatology 2011, 9:26  doi:10.1186/1546-0096-9-26

Published: 12 September 2011

Abstract

Survival dominates current pediatric global health priorities. Diseases of poverty largely contribute to overall mortality in children under 5 years of age. Infectious diseases and injuries account for 75% of cause-specific mortality among children ages 5-14 years. Twenty percent of the world's population lives in extreme poverty (income below US $1.25/day). Within this population, essential services and basic needs are not met, including clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition, shelter, access to health care, medicines and education. In this context, musculoskeletal disease comprises 0.1% of all-cause mortality in children ages 5-14 years. Worldwide morbidity from musculoskeletal disease remains generally unknown in the pediatric age group. This epidemiologic data is not routinely surveyed by international agencies, including the World Health Organization. The prevalence of pediatric rheumatic diseases based on data from developed nations is in the range of 2,500 - 3,000 cases per million children. Developing countries' needs for musculoskeletal morbidity are undergoing an epidemiologic shift to chronic conditions, as leading causes of pediatric mortality are slowly quelled.

A global crisis of health care providers and human resources stems from insufficient workforce production, inability to retain workers in areas of greatest need, distribution disparity and poor management of both health care systems and health workforce. Internationally, the pediatric rheumatology workforce will also be in very short supply for the foreseeable future relative to projected demand. Physician extenders are an essential resource to meet this demand in underserved regions. They can be trained in common aspects of musculoskeletal medicine and rheumatic conditions. Innovative strategies have been introduced in the United Kingdom to address musculoskeletal medicine educational deficiencies. Telemedicine offers an important capacity to improve access to care despite distance. Regulatory flexibility may allow realignment of clinical responsibilities through existing and future governmental or non-governmental credentialing organizations. This review explores a variety of creative approaches which hold promise to improve patient access to care.

Keywords:
pediatric rheumatology; pediatric subspecialty; policy; workforce; child mortality; international health