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ESMO Calls to Increase and Invest in the Cancer Workforce at the 75th World Health Assembly

27 May 2022

An ESMO statement was delivered by the ESMO President, Solange Peters, on the topic of Human Resources for Health, during the World Health Assembly (WHA75), 22-28 May 2022. She noted that the ever-growing cancer burden highlights the urgent need for more specialized cancer doctors to achieve universal health coverage.

Solange Peters, ESMO President
ESMO Statement on Human Resources for Health

The WHO publication in ESMO Open entitled Distribution of the workforce involved in cancer care: a systematic review of the literature, notes that “In order to tackle the disparities in cancer-related outcomes, a critical aspect is to strengthen the workforce for cancer care. Increasing health financing, recruitment, training, and retention of the workforce in LMs are key targets of the SDG agenda. The health workforce is a vital pillar of the health care system, and it is fundamental for delivering high-quality cancer care services”.

The COVID-19 pandemic and caring for displaced refugee patients from Ukraine have shown the reality of an inadequate number of health and care workers.. They have served on the frontline, above and beyond their normal workload, and some have endured trauma, suffered burn out, and others have lost their lives.

For this reason, the ESMO statement noted that countries need a sufficient number of well-trained and well-equipped workforce of cancer professionals to ensure quality delivers of preventative strategies, timely diagnosis, and the safe and effective administration of cancer therapies and palliative care services. It also raised awareness that the ESMO Global Curriculum in Medical Oncology can support countries in the training of medical oncologists, noting the curriculum is freely available on the ESMO website.

The World Health Assembly noted the reports and adopted the resolution on Human Resources for Health, including the following, which call for investment in and protection of the health workforce worldwide:

  1. Working for Health: draft 2022–2030 action plan, Report of the WHO Director-General
  2. Global health and care worker compact
  3. WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel: fourth round of national reporting, Report by the WHO Director-General
  4. Global strategy on human resources for health: workforce 2030, Report by the Director-General


  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board The theme of the 2022 World Health Assembly is: Health for peace, peace for health.
  • In 2021, an ESMO statement at the 74th World Health Assembly, ESMO welcomed the Resolution on ‘Protecting, safeguarding and investing in the health and care workforce’. The Resolution reinforced WHO’s dedication of 2021 as the International Year of Health and Care Workers and requested governments to develop national workforce strategies, safeguard the rights of all health personnel, and to prioritise investments in health and care worker recruitment, retention, education, training, and protection, in order to build resilient and sustainable health system capacities that work towards Universal Health Coverage and leave no one behind.
  • Following the ESMO Young Oncologists’ Burnout Survey, which highlighted the need to increase burnout awareness among oncology professionals, ESMO launched the Resilience Task Force to help understand risk factors, interventions and to develop solutions to help support the welfare of the oncology community.

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