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Open Access Research article

Health-related rehabilitation services: assessing the global supply of and need for human resources

Neeru Gupta1*, Carla Castillo-Laborde2 and Michel D Landry3

Author Affiliations

1 Health Workforce Information and Governance, Department of Human Resources for Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Health Planning Division, Public Health Secretariat, Ministry of Health, Santiago, Chile

3 Doctor of Physical Therapy Division, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:276  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-276

Published: 17 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Human resources for rehabilitation are often a neglected component of health services strengthening and health workforce development. This may be partly related to weaknesses in the available research and evidence to inform advocacy and programmatic strategies. The objective of this study was to quantitatively describe the global situation in terms of supply of and need for human resources for health-related rehabilitation services, as a basis for strategy development of the workforce in physical and rehabilitation medicine.

Methods

Data for assessing supply of and need for rehabilitative personnel were extracted and analyzed from statistical databases maintained by the World Health Organization and other national and international health information sources. Standardized classifications were used to enhance cross-national comparability of findings.

Results

Large differences were found across countries and regions between assessed need for services requiring health workers associated to physical and rehabilitation medicine against estimated supply of health personnel skilled in rehabilitation services. Despite greater need, low- and middle-income countries tended to report less availability of skilled health personnel, although the strength of the supply-need relationship varied across geographical and economic country groupings.

Conclusion

The evidence base on human resources for health-related rehabilitation services remains fragmented, the result of limited availability and use of quality, comparable data and information within and across countries. This assessment offered the first global baseline, intended to catalyze further research that can be translated into evidence to support human resources for rehabilitation policy and practice.