Health workers, quality of care, and child health: simulating the relationships between increases in health staffing and child length

Health Policy. 2009 Jul;91(2):148-55. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2008.12.001. Epub 2009 Jan 14.


Objective: One in three children globally is stunted in growth. Many of the conditions that promote child stunting are amenable to quality care provided by skilled health workers.

Methods: The study uses household and facility data from the Indonesian Family Life Surveys in 1993 and 1997. The first set of multivariate regression models evaluate whether the number of medical doctors (MDs), nurses, and midwives predict quality of care as measured by adherence to clinical guidelines. The second set explains the relationships between quality and length among children less than 36 months. Using the information generated from these two sets of regressions, we simulate the effect of increasing the number of MDs, nurses, and midwives on child length and stunting.

Results: Increases in the number of MDs and nurses predict increases in the quality of care. Higher quality care is associated with child length in centimeters and stunting. Simulations suggest that large health gains among children under 24 months of age result by placing MDs where none are available.

Conclusions: Improvements in child health could be made by increasing the number of qualified health staff. The returns to investing in improvements in human resources for health are high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medical Staff / supply & distribution*
  • Public Health
  • Public Policy
  • Quality of Health Care*