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Imbalances in the health workforce. A briefing paper

World Health Organization, technical brief

World Health Organization

Publication details

Number of pages: 55
Publication date: 2002
Languages: English


This paper, authored by Pascal Zurn, Mario Dal Poz, Barbara Stilwell and Orvill Adams, aims to contribute to a better understanding of the issues related to health workforce imbalance through a critical review of its definition, nature and measurement techniques, as well as the development of an analytical framework

An analytical framework was developed to look at the characteristics of the health care delivery system, the actors and characteristics of the healthcare labour market, and main forces determing supply and demand of health workers. Different type of health workforce imbalances exist: profession/ specialty imbalances (relative to the skills mix), geographic, gender, public / private, institutional and services imbalances.

Measurement of imbalances can rely on various types of indicators, tracking employment, activity, wages, and normative population based density of the health workforce. Tracking health workforce imbalances, due to the complex nature of the topic, is probably best done through multiple indicators capturing different dimensions of the problem.