Back in May, development experts were worrying that opening U.S. doors to more foreign nurses would hurt poor countries already suffering shortages of health care workers. But a new report from the Center for Global Development says concerns over human capital flight are way off:
The results presented here fail to detect any negative impact of even massive movements of health professionals out of Africa upon health worker stocks, basic primary health care availability, and public health outcomes in African migrant-sending countries…The results further suggest that emigration has caused a greater production of health workers in Africa.
Local economies are often unable to absorb the workers they educate, and the opportunity to work abroad motivates some people to go into health care in the first place (though the effect of the latter seems to be small.) It's a mistake to link the number of highly trained health care professionals to general public welfare in the poorest African countries, and for a hugely depressing reason:
Children do not die in rural Mozambique due to lack of cardiologists and nurse practitioners; they die principally from lack of oral rehydration during diarrhea, lack of malaria prophylaxis, and lack of basic primary treatment for acute respiratory infections. None of these require highly trained personnel to deliver.
I stuck up for nurse mobility in May.