Health workforce in India: opportunities and challenges


  • Kesavan Sreekantan Nair Department of Health Administration, College of Public Health and Health Informatics, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia



Health workforce, Public health sector, Private health sector, Medical education


Health system reforms in India during the past decade yielded an impressive growth of medical, dental and nursing education opportunities, but health workforce density remains low in comparison to the World Health Organization (WHO) norms. Apart from shortage, retaining qualified health workforce in the rural and underserved areas remains a huge challenge. This crisis is likely to persist until and unless health system addresses the fundamental requirements of health workers as envisaged in health policies. Concerted attention and long term political commitments are required to overcome health system barriers to achieve rural recruitment and retention across various cadres in states. As the major share of health workforce belongs to the private sector, their resources need to be harnessed to meet health system goals through partnerships and collaborations. There is an urgent need for better regulation and enforcement of standards in medical education and delivery of health services across the public and private sectors.


World Health Organization. 2006. Working together for health–World Health Report 2006, in World Health Report. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

Anand S, Fan V. The health workforce in India. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016. Human Resources for Health Observer Series No.16. Available at: http://www. who. int/ hrh/ resources/ 16058health_ workforce_ India_ pdf? ua=1. Accessed on 17 March 2019.

Rao M, Rao KD, Kumar AKS, Chatterjee M, Sundararaman T. Human resources for health in India. Lancet. 2011;377:587–98.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. National Rural Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India: New Delhi, 2005.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. National Health Policy. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India: New Delhi, 2017.

Rao KD, Bhatnagar A, Berman P. So many, yet few: Human resources for health in India. Hum Resour Health. 2012;10:19.

Karan A, Negandhi H, Nair R, Sharma A, Tiwari R, Zodpey S. Size, composition and distribution of human resource for health in India: new estimates using National Sample Survey and Registry data. BMJ Open. 2019;9:e025979.

Motkuri V, Mishra US. Human Resources in Healthcare and Health Outcomes in India MPRA Paper No. 85217 Available at: Accessed on 17 March 2019.

Rao KD, Shahrawat R, Bhatnagar A. Composition and distribution of the health workforce in India: estimates based on data from the National Sample Survey. WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2016;5:133–40.

National commission on Macroeconomics and Health. Report of The National commission on Macroeconomics and Health. New Delhi: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; 2005.

Mackintosh M, Channon A, Karan A. Selvaraj S, Cavagnero E, Zhao H. What is the private sector? Understanding private provision in the health systems of low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet. 2016;388:596–605.

Government of India. National Health Profile 2017. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; New Delhi. 2017

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Rural Health Statistics 2018. Health Management Information System. Government of India; 2018.

Hazarika I. Health workforce in India: assessment of availability, production and distribution. WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2013;2:106–12.

Goel S, Angeli F, Bhatnagar N. Retaining health workforce in rural and underserved areas of India: What works and what doesn't? A critical interpretative synthesis. National Med J India. 2016; 29(4):212-8.

Rajbahanghsi PR, Nambiar D, Choudhury N. Rural recruitment and retention of health workers across cadres and types of contract in north-east India: A qualitative study. South East Asia J Public Health. 2017;6(2):51-9.

World Health Organization. Increasing access to health workers in remote and rural areas through improved retention-global policy recommendations, WHO. 2010; Available at: http://www.searo.who. int/nepal/mediacentre/2010_increasing_access_to_health_workers_in_remote_and_rural_areas.pdf. Accessed on 17 March 2019.

Jacob KS. Politics of medical education in India. Economic and Political Weekly. 2016;51(12):12-5.

Chakravarthi I, Roy B, Mukhopadhyay I, Brria S. Investing in Health: Healthcare Industry in India, Economic and Political Weekly. 2017;52(45):11.

Raha S, Berman P, Bhatnagar A. Some priority challenges of the nursing sector in India. Indian Health Beat. 2009.

Catrin E, Rafath R, Elaine C. Building nurse education capacity in India: Insights from a faculty development programme in Andhra Pradesh. BMC Nurs. 2013;12:8.

Raina SK, Kumar R, Kumar D, Chauhan R, Raina S, Chander V, et al. Game change in Indian Health Care System through reforms in medical education curriculum focusing on primary care- Recommendations of a joint working group. J Family Med Pri Care. 2018;7(3):489–94.

Mullan F, Doctors for the World: Indian Physician Emigration, Health Affairs, Published online March 22, 2006. Available at: https://www.healthaffairs. org/doi/ full/10.1377/hlthaff.25.2.380. Accessed on 17 March 2019.

Kaushik M, Jaiswal A, Shah N, Mahal A. High end physician migration from India, Bulletin of World Health Organization. 2008;86(1):40-5.




How to Cite

Nair, K. S. (2019). Health workforce in India: opportunities and challenges. International Journal Of Community Medicine And Public Health, 6(10), 4596–4604.



Review Articles