Applying WHO's 'workforce indicators of staffing need' (WISN) method to calculate the health worker requirements for India's maternal and child health service guarantees in Orissa State

Health Policy Plan. 2012 Jan;27(1):11-8. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czr007. Epub 2011 Feb 4.


Objective: In one district of Orissa state, we used the World Health Organization's Workforce Indicators of Staffing Need (WISN) method to calculate the number of health workers required to achieve the maternal and child health 'service guarantees' of India's National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). We measured the difference between this ideal number and current staffing levels.

Methods: We collected census data, routine health information data and government reports to calculate demand for maternal and child health services. By conducting 54 interviews with physicians and midwives, and six focus groups, we were able to calculate the time required to perform necessary health care tasks. We also interviewed 10 new mothers to cross-check these estimates at a global level and get assessments of quality of care.

Findings: For 18 service centres of Ganjam District, we found 357 health workers in our six cadre categories, to serve a population of 1.02 million. Total demand for the MCH services guaranteed under India's NRHM outpaced supply for every category of health worker but one. To properly serve the study population, the health workforce supply should be enhanced by 43 additional physicians, 15 nurses and 80 nurse midwives. Those numbers probably under-estimate the need, as they assume away geographic barriers.

Conclusions: Our study established time standards in minutes for each MCH activity promised by the NRHM, which could be applied elsewhere in India by government planners and civil society advocates. Our calculations indicate significant numbers of new health workers are required to deliver the services promised by the NRHM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Censuses
  • Child Health Services*
  • Female
  • Health Planning
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / organization & administration*
  • Rural Health Services
  • Workforce
  • World Health Organization*