Today at the White House, 30 U.S. doctors and nurses from across the country were sworn in as the first class of Peace Corps Global Health Service Partnership Volunteers. Fifty-two years ago, President John F. Kennedy hosted a ceremony at the White House to swear in the first-ever Peace Corps Volunteers. While honoring that legacy, the Peace Corps inaugurated the first Volunteers of the Global Health Service Partnership program, one of several new Peace Corps initiatives that expand service opportunities and use 21st century tools to meet development goals.
The Global Health Service Partnership is a collaboration of the Peace Corps, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the non-profit Seed Global Health, and presents an opportunity for American physicians and nurses to make a difference in communities abroad by helping to address the known shortage of skilled physicians, nurses and clinical faculty in countries that need them most. This innovative public-private partnership represents the first organized effort by the Peace Corps to send U.S. healthcare professionals abroad with a focus on teaching and expanding clinical capacity.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest shortage of physicians and nurses; the region has 24 percent of the global burden of disease but only 3 percent of the world’s health workforce. While the United States has 280 physicians and 980 nurses for every 100,000 people, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, like Tanzania, have just one physician and 24 nurses for every 100,000 people.
The new Volunteers leave this Saturday for one-year assignments as medical or nursing educators in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, where they will work alongside local faculty to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. The inaugural group comes from diverse backgrounds, with clinical experience extending from a few years to decades of experience. The doctors and nurses range in age from 26 to 70, include seven returned Peace Corps Volunteers and have collectively worked in more than 32 developing countries throughout the world.