An Intersectoral Policy for the Education of Health Professionals:

Aligning Health and Education as Learning Systems (with other Sectors)

The Careum Working Paper entitled «Educating Health Professionals: an Intersectoral Policy Approach» evolved from experts workshops held at the Careum Dialogue 2012 and Careum Dialogue 2013. The Careum Foundation participates in the worldwide debate on how well those working in the health system are prepared for the foreseeable challenges. The momentum gained in this “Healthcare Policy meets Educational Policy”-Dialogue series pushed the authors to pursue the reflection on aligning education and health benefits. The paper is, among other sources, particularly inspired by the Lancet-Report « Health professionals for a new century » and the framework «Health 2020» elaborated by WHO Europe.

The authors combine existing lines of reasoning and the discussions in the Careum Dialogue series in new ways in order to derive five postulates for an intersectoral policy for the education of health professionals:

  1. Directing education towards health literacy and a new professional identity
    Objectives in the education of health professionals must be oriented towards the society´s ability to innovate and the health literacy of citizens. Education for the professions which work in the health system must lead to cross-functional and intersectoral thinking and a new professional attitude.
  2. Conceptualising the intersectoral policy for the educating health professionals in a comprehensive way
    The scope of a policy for the education of health professionals must be expanded. Besides educating for patient-related functions, the functions related to the population, to organisational development, and to increasing knowledge must receive the same attention in regard to regulation and financing. It thus becomes intersectoral.
  3. Having different sectors govern educational reform
    The governments that have endorsed the WHO policy framework «Health 2020» are called upon to establish an intersectoral policy for the education of health professionals and to steer towards it by means of appropriate objectives in legislation and appropriate budgeting. The ministers of health and education have essential roles of advocacy in their coordination efforts with the other departments, in particular with finance and economics, research and innovation, as well as with legislation.
  4. Learning to cooperate: developing structures and a culture of cooperation
    Besides promoting technical expertise, the education for different functions in the healthcare system must make the nurturing of cooperation skills a priority. These skills require new approaches in methodology and didactics, which include cross-sectoral processes, inter-professional learning arrangements and learning venues in community practice. Such education and training also require educators who are capable of reflection and who can moderate these sophisticated processes of acquiring skills.
  5. Parallel strategy for training and further education in line with future needs
    Besides the sustainable education of health professionals, a parallel strategy of continuous further education and training is required for those that are currently working in the health system. Systematic training grounded in institutions, life-long learning and a development towards learning organisations are essential for a flexible health system of tomorrow which is oriented towards innovation and reform – in parallel with measures to increase the health literacy of patients and citizens.

The 5 postulates must be realised by means of the following four strategic measures

  • Generating conclusive and policy relevant data:
    Promoting research about the health and the educational systems
    Research on health systems, care and professional education needs to be aligned consistently towards the mutual dependencies between outcomes of education and care.
  • Changing Educational Institutions:
    Allowing the courageous approach towards the vision of the health campus
    Those working in all four functional fields are to be brought together on a «health campus» which allows an inter-professional organisation of education and research and the integration of politics and policies, education and health.
  • Regulation: Adapting laws to needs
    In order to facilitate innovation, the dense bodies of regulations need to include clauses that permit experimenting with new types of institutions in tertiary education and forms of care.
  • Creating structures for dialogue: facilitating continuous cooperation between sectors and facilitating moderation of related processes
    Owing to the importance of health, political departments of health as well as of education and science must create panels and platforms with non-public actors, the health industry and civil society.

The postulates and the strategic measures aim to inform the political decision makers, the educational institutions and the organizations operating in the health system how the process of changing education and training for health professionals can be approached.

The vision, however, is much broader: it is not only education for caregivers and related issues regarding financing which is in the focus. Planning, steering and governance in the health sector as well as research and evaluation for further innovation and organizational development are given the same priority. Such a comprehensive approach will contribute to overcoming old concepts by «transformative learning». As an outcome it should enhance the transition from a paternalistic model to a systemic understanding of processes. It is assumed that this, in turn, will allow for a broader participation as well as a better performance and cost-effectiveness.


Working Paper 7: Sottas/Höppner/Kickbusch/Pelikan/Probst (2013): Educating Health Professionals: an Intersectoral Policy Approach (PDF)

Further informations

Careum Dialog 2013
Report Careum Dialog 2012 >>
Lancet Report >>