Health workforce is one of the six building blocks of health systems as per the WHO schema. The definition includes medical, nursing, allied health, support and managerial personnel. And yet, the focus continues to be on medical and nursing professionals.From a simple doctor patient interaction, healthcare has evolved into a complex social system. Managing complex systems require professional expertise, knowledge, and skills. Institutions offering health management courses have come up over the last few years in response to the above need. Some of the areas covered by these courses are public health, healthcare provider and payer systems, and health information. However, these courses have evolved without standards or a system that assures quality.

Regulatory councils exist for medical, nursing, dental, and pharmacy professionals in India. There are, however, no such councils for allied health and health management professionals.This begets a need to create appropriate councils to regulate health management professionals. Such councils should be brought under an overarching body responsible for governing human resources for health. This body should be entrusted with the responsibility of planning for the generation, supply, and equitable distribution of human resources as per the health needs of the population.

Governance of national and subnational health systems is another critical building block driving leadership and stewardship by the government. A majority of government professionals who are responsible for the governance of health systems come from the Indian Administrative Services cadre. Some of them come from the medical services cadre. Most often these professionals lack appropriate knowledge of complex health systems and the skills needed to govern them. Lack of good governance is one of the key reasons for dysfunctional health systems. Hence, there is an urgent need to build capacity of these professionals either through on job training or through a mandatory structured course for them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought health on top of political discourse and policy agenda. This is a call for action to address the issue of human resources for health on utmost priority to strengthen our ailing health system and secure our people’s health.

Dr. Krishna Reddy Nallamalla
Country Director, ACCESS Health India