Transformative Learning for Health Equity

Date: 27-31 January 2014

Venue: Royal Cliff Grand Hotel, Pattaya, Chonburi, Thailand



The Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) is an annual international conference focusing on policy-related health issues of global significance. The conference is hosted by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation, the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Mahidol University and other global partners.  It is an international policy forum that Global Health Institutes, both public and private, can co-own and use for advocacy and for seeking international perspectives on important global health issues.

The Conference in 2014 will be co-hosted by the Prince Mahidol Award Conference, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Rockefeller Foundation and China Medical Board with the support from other key related partners.  The Conference will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 27 -31 January 2014.

The 1910 Flexner report led to the integration of modern science into medical curricula at university-based medical schools. The reforms equipped medical professionals with scientific knowledge which contributed to the doubling of life span during the 20th century.

At the beginning of the 21st century, however, there are several changes affecting worldwide health care services.  Inequities in terms of access to healthcare and quality underscore failure to share health gains across rich-poor, urban-rural population, domestically and internationally.  Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases across national borders, environmental degradation and behavioural risks, various socio-economic factors and social determinants which contribute to ill-health, increased ageing population and demands for long-term care, all have major ramifications on the appropriate profiles and skills of health professional and the way they are trained and deployed.  Healthcare cost, driven by ageing population, technology advancement and increased demands by population becomes increasingly unaffordable and unsustainable.  Universal health coverage has been recommended by the World Health Organization to be the most important strategy for achieving health equity; and this will present new demands and opportunities for the health professionals.

Advancement in biomedical knowledge as well as information technology (IT) are also progressing at an unprecedented pace, and will be much faster in the near future.  These will very much affect healthcare systems worldwide.

Today, health professional education has not been well adapted to address these challenges; largely, because of outdated, static and fragmented, content oriented curricula, which produce graduates with insufficient knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to understand determinants of ill health and become more responsive to the changing population and communities’ health needs. The problems also aggravated by various factors; poor teamwork and inadequate collaboration within and across health professionals, narrow contextual understanding, episodic encounters with patient illnesses rather than continuous health care, emphasizing treatment rather than disease prevention and health promotion, lack of understanding in social determinants of health and imbalance between health workforces and health needs in both qualitative and quantitative aspects. There is also inadequate collaboration and communication between health professional training institutes and health delivery systems in terms of competencies of various health professionals and effective deployment after graduation.

There is also increasing global consensus that the education of health professionals is failing to keep pace with the scientific, social and economic changes transforming the healthcare environment. Fresh visions, revitalized energy, new actors and others have joined to tackle these problems.  Starting with the Joint Learning Initiative in 2004, the WHO World Health Report 2006 sparked a series of global initiatives including the advent of the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA), the Asia Pacific Alliance on HRH (AAAH), USAID CapacityPlus Project, PEPFAR’s MEPI-NEPI, and others.  The Second Global Forum on HRH was conducted by PMAC 2011 fostering the global momentum on human resources for health, and Brazil plans to host the Third Global Forum on HRH in November 2013.  Complementing this broad perspective, the PMAC 2014 will focus on health professional and leadership education with its distinctive aspects including enhancing local-global linkages in competencies, team work, the revolution in IT-based learning, and new organizational forms like networking.

The Commission on Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century chaired by Lincoln Chen and Julio Frenk released the Commission report on “Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century: A Global Independent Commission” on December 4th, 2010.  There has been a strong movement in health education reform in many regions; Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Since 2011, a network of 5 countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Thailand and Vietnam, was formed and volunteered to conduct in-depth analyses of health professional training (medical doctors, nurses and public health) in these five countries which contribute to evidence-based reform.   Assessment covers national level, institutional (faculty) level and outcome through quantitative surveys of the last year students who are about to graduate and among the professional in the service sector to assess their rural attitudes, clinical and nursing competencies and job preference or transition.  Success and good practices will be identified for scaling up and deficiencies for improvement.  Appropriate practical health professionals education intervention in line with the nation’s socio-economic, cultural and health system context will be developed, implemented and evaluated; as part of the evidence-based reform.

Similar activities such as the MEPI and NEPI in Africa are exciting.  Gathering and sharing these information and experience among global, regional and national health leaders would provide further momentum for the global HRH education reform. It is thus quite timely to convene the Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2014.  The theme for PMAC 2014 will be “Transformative Learning for Health Equity”.




1. To identify, share and learn strengths and weaknesses of the current health professional education, teaching and learning systems in different country contexts.

2. To identify how health professional education, teaching and learning systems be transformed in advancing health equity agenda and be responsive to health of people in the dynamic socio-economic environment.

3. To support the development of strategies and interventions in transforming health professional education systems at the national levels.

4. To strengthening the regional network contributing to evidence for health professional education transformation.


The conference program was developed starting with the conceptual framework in the figure above, comprising 3 main components: (1) education system including innovation and technology on health professional learning; (2) health system, and (3) labor market and demographic transition that will have impact on both education and health systems.  These 3 components are divided into 4 key areas with various issues under each area as follows:

Health Professional Education Reform:
Instructional Dimensions
Health Professional Education Reform: Institutional Dimensions
Advancing Health Equity Through Health Workforce Education, Training and Deployment
Changing Context and Impact on Labour Market and Health Professional Training
The abovementioned 4 key areas and issues under each area were used as a guideline in the design of organized sessions for the conference.
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Program 2014 Proceeding 2014
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