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What should be done to address losses associated with ‘medical brain drain’?
  1. Gillian Brock1,
  2. Michael Blake2
  1. 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2 Department of Philosophy, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Gillian Brock, Department of Philosophy, University of Auckland, Room 322, Arts 2, 18 Symonds St, Auckland 1142 New Zealand; g.brock{at}

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The lack of human resources available to address enormous contemporary healthcare needs is ‘one of the most pressing global health issues of our time’.1 The WHO has estimated the shortfall at approximately 4.3 million healthcare professionals.2 The shortages are most acutely felt in low/middle-income countries, where the scale of the problem sometimes threatens the very viability of even rudimentary healthcare systems. The shortages are exacerbated by the phenomenon known as ‘brain drain’ where, in its most worrisome forms, skilled and educated citizens from low/middle-income countries depart for high-income ones at very high rates.

The data on the empirical results of brain drain are complex and there are many types of effects to consider. In Debating Brain Drain: May Governments Restrict Emigration? (Oxford University Press, 2015) we consider some of this complexity, including positive and negative effects associated with impacts on health services and outcomes, knowledge transfer, remittances, income, economic growth, human capital formation, institution building, fiscal contributions and diaspora effects. On several particular dimensions, low/middle-income countries are huge net losers from migration of health professionals. Consider, for instance, that African countries are estimated to lose …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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