Access to good-quality health services is crucial for the improvement of many health outcomes, such as those targeted by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000. The health-related MDGs cannot be achieved if vulnerable populations do not have access to skilled personnel and to other necessary inputs. This paper focuses on the geographical dimension of access and on one of its critical determinants: the availability of qualified personnel. The objective of this paper is to offer a better understanding of the determinants of geographical imbalances in the distribution of health personnel, and to identify and assess the strategies developed to correct them. It reviews the recent literature on determinants, barriers and the effects of strategies that attempted to correct geographical imbalances, with a focus on empirical studies from developing and developed countries. An analysis of determinants of success and failures of strategies implemented, and a summary of lessons learnt, is included.