Usman Khan, the executive director of the European Health Management Association, assesses the future for today’s European health manager.

An oft-used phrase at the European Health Management Association is that ‘health management is not rocket science; it’s much more difficult than that!’ Reflecting on the content in Health Europa and many other publications in the health policy space, it is easy to see substantiation for such an assertion. Within a sector that operates to a unique set of rules, facing a public whose needs and expectations appear to be growing exponentially, yet having to live with resource constraints not seen in a generation, the challenges facing today’s healthcare manager have rarely appeared greater.

Yet this stands in stark contrast to the current situation regarding both healthcare managers and healthcare management in Europe, most particularly when compared to countries such as the USA. A 2006 World Health Organization (WHO) study estimated there to be approximately a third more healthcare administrators in America compared to Europe.1 In the United States not only is it common to have an undergraduate health management qualification to practice, but there is a common recognition that senior health management posts will require a postgraduate Master’s in Health Administration (MHA), with organisations such as the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and the Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) providing support for the close to 500 different academic programmes on offer.

Health management in Europe

In this respect Europe is in something of a position of catch up. A number of European countries report there being a shortage of health managers, while the core requirements for health managers are only slowly moving towards the standards set in the USA.

However, there are now a range of high-quality under- and postgraduate university programmes in health management available in Europe, including at Bocconi in Italy, Erasmus in the Netherlands, Sofia Medical University in Bulgaria, Frankfurt in Germany, as well as Birmingham and Manchester in the United Kingdom. These programmes are all members of EHMA, and form part of an active EHMA Programme Directors Group now focused on issues ranging from accreditation to curriculum development.

As a not-for-profit membership-led organisation, which has been in existence for over 35 years, the European Health Management Association has focused on supporting excellence in health management, recognising this to be a necessary platform for the efficient and effective delivery of health and social care. Drawing together the delivery, policy and academic communities in partnerships focused on education and training, it has also been extended to include knowledge management and improvement activity, with our member organisations in constant motion, as they seek to stay ahead of the latest developments.

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