Health workers at the core of the health system: framework and research issues

Health Policy. 2012 May;105(2-3):185-91. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2011.10.012. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


This paper presents a framework for the health system with health workers at the core. We review existing health-system frameworks and the role they assign to health workers. Earlier frameworks either do not include health workers as a central feature of system functioning or treat them as one among several components of equal importance. As every function of the health system is either undertaken by or mediated through the health worker, we place the health worker at the center of the health system. Our framework is useful for structuring research on the health workforce and for identifying health-worker research issues. We describe six research issues on the health workforce: metrics to measure the capacity of a health system to deliver healthcare; the contribution of public- vs. private-sector health workers in meeting healthcare needs and demands; the appropriate size, composition and distribution of the health workforce; approaches to achieving health-worker requirements; the adoption and adaption of treatments by health workers; and the training of health workers for horizontally vs. vertically structured health systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care* / organization & administration
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Health Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration
  • Health Services Research*
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational