The worldwide control rate for hypertension is dismal. An inadequate number of physicians to treat patients with hypertension is one key obstacle. Innovative health system approaches such as delegation of basic tasks to non-physician health workers (task-sharing) might alleviate this problem. Massive scale up of population-wide hypertension management is especially important for low- and middle-income countries such as India.
Using constrained optimization models, we estimated the hypertension treatment capacity and salary costs of staff involved in hypertension care within the public health system of India and simulated the potential effects of (1) an increased workforce, (2) greater task-sharing among health workers, and (3) extended average prescription periods that reduce treatment visit frequency (e.g., quarterly instead of monthly).
Currently, only an estimated 8% (95% uncertainty interval 7%–10%) of ∼245 million adults with hypertension can be treated by physician-led services in the Indian public health system (assuming the current number of health workers, no greater task-sharing, and monthly visits for prescriptions). Without task-sharing and with continued monthly visits for prescriptions, the least costly workforce expansion to treat 70% of adults with hypertension would require ∼1.6 (1.0–2.5) million additional staff (all non-physicians), with ∼INR 200 billion (≈USD 2.7 billion) in additional annual salary costs. Implementing task-sharing among health workers (without increasing the overall time on hypertension care) or allowing a 3-month prescription period was estimated to allow the current workforce to treat ∼25% of patients. Joint implementation of task-sharing and a longer prescription period could treat ∼70% of patients with hypertension in India.
The combination of greater task-sharing and extended prescription periods could substantially increase the hypertension treatment capacity in India without any expansion of the current workforce in the public health system. By contrast, workforce expansion alone would require considerable, additional human and financial resources.
Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, was funded by grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Gates Philanthropy Partners (funded with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation).