Lessons learnt during the implementation of WISN for comprehensive primary health care in India, South Africa and Peru

Sikhumbuzo A. Mabunda, Mona Gupta, Wezile W. Chitha, Ntombifikile G. Mtshali, Claudia Ugarte, Ciro Echegaray, María Cuzco, Javier Loayza, Felipe Peralta, Seimer Escobedo, Veronica Bustos, Onke R. Mnyaka, Buyiswa Swaartbooi, Natasha Williams, Rohina Joshi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Introduction: The World Health Organization introduced the workload indicators of staffing needs (WISN) in 1998 to improve country-level health workforce planning. This study presents the primary care health workforce planning experiences of India, South Africa and Peru. Methods: A case study approach was used to explore the lessons learnt in the implementation of WISN in India and South Africa. It also describes the methods developed and implemented to estimate health workforce in Peru. We identify the barriers and facilitators faced by countries during the implementation phase through the triangulation of literature, government reports and accounts of involved health planners in the three countries. Results: India implemented WISN in a referral pathway of three district health facilities, including a primary health centre, community health centre and district hospital. Implementation was impeded by limited technical support, poor stakeholder consultation and information systems challenges. South Africa implemented WISN for health workforce planning in primary care and found the skills mix and staff determinations to be unaffordable. The Peruvian Ministry of Health considered using WISN but decided to develop a context-specific tool to estimate the health workforce needed using its available resources such as the National Register of Health Personnel. The main challenge in using WISN was the insufficient information on its inputs. Conclusion: While India and South Africa had unique experiences with the integration of WISN in their health system, none of the countries has yet benefited from the implementation of WISN due to financial, infrastructure and technical challenges. Since the methodology developed by the Peruvian Ministry of Health is context-specific, its implementation has been promising for health workforce planning. The learnings from these countries’ experiences will prove useful in bringing future changes for the health workforce.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12541
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number23
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Decision making
  • Health policy
  • Health systems
  • Health workforce
  • Planning
  • WISN


Dive into the research topics of 'Lessons learnt during the implementation of WISN for comprehensive primary health care in India, South Africa and Peru'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this