Background: India faces an acute shortage of health personnel. Together with inequalities in distribution of health workers, this shortfall impedes progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The aim of this study was to assess health-workforce distribution, identify inequalities in health-worker provision and estimate the impact of this maldistribution on key health outcomes in India.
Materials and methods: Health-workforce availability and production were assessed by use of year-end data for 2009 obtained from the Indian Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Inequalities in the distribution of doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives were estimated by use of the Gini coefficient and the relation between health-worker density and selected health outcomes was assessed by linear regression.
Results: Inequalities in the availability of health workers exist in India. Certain states are experiencing an acute shortage of health personnel. Inequalities in the distribution of health workers are highest for doctors and dentists and have a significant effect on health outcomes.
Conclusion: Although the production of health workers has expanded greatly in recent years, the problems of imbalances in their distribution persist. As India seeks to achieve universal health coverage by 2020, the realization of this goal remains challenged by the current lack of availability and inequitable distribution of appropriately trained, motivated and supported health workers.