Does decentralization influence efficiency of health units? A study of opinion and perception of health workers in Odisha

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Background: Health systems in low and middle income countries are struggling to improve efficiency in the functioning of health units of which workforce is one of the most critical building blocks. In India, Rogi Kalyan Samiti (RKS) was established at every health unit as institutions of local decision making in order to improve productive efficiency and quality. Measuring efficiency of health units is a complex task. This study aimed at assessing the perception (opinion and satisfaction) of health workers about influence of RKS on improving efficiency of peripheral decision making health units (DMHU); examining differences between priority and non-priority set-ups; identifying predictors of satisfaction at work; and discussing suggestions to improve performance. Methods: Following a cross-sectional, comparative study design, 130 health workers from 30 institutions were selected through a multi-stage stratified random sampling. A semi-structured questionnaire was administered to assess perception and opinion of health workers about influence of RKS on efficiency of decision making at local level, motivation and performance of staff, and availability of funds; improvement of quality of services, and coordination among co-workers; and participation of community in local decision making. Three districts with highest infant mortality rate (IMR), one each, from 3 zones of Odisha and 3 with lowest IMR were selected on the basis of IMR estimates of 2011. The former constituted priority districts (PD) and the latter, non-priority districts (NPD). Composite scores were developed and compared between PD and NPD. Adjusted linear regression was conducted to identify predictors of satisfaction at work. Results: A majority of respondents felt that RKS was efficient in decision making that resulted in improvement of all critical parameters of health service delivery, including quality; this was significantly higher in PD. Further, higher proportion of respondents from PD was highly satisfied with the current set of provisions and manners of functioning of the sample health units. Active community engagement, participation of elected representatives, selection of a pro-active Chairman, and training to RKS members were suggested as the immediate priority action points for the state government. Mean scores differed significantly between PD and NPD with regard to: influence of RKS on individual-centric, organizational-centric and patient-centric performance, and the responsibilities to be entrusted with RKS. Absenteeism was strongly associated with satisfaction and local self-governance. Work-related factors, systemic factors, local accountability and patients' involvement were found to be the key predictors of satisfaction of health workforce. Conclusion: The understanding on quality improvement strategies was found to be very poor among the health workers. Tailor-made capacity building measures at district and sub-district levels could be critical to equip the peripheral health units to achieve the universal health coverage goals. Work environment, systemic factors and accountability need to be addressed on priority for retention of health workforce. The hypothesized link between efficient local decision making, perception of health workers about efficiency of health units and the health status of population needs further investigation.




Panda, B., Thakur, H. P., & Zodpey, S. P. (2016). Does decentralization influence efficiency of health units? A study of opinion and perception of health workers in Odisha. BMC Health Services Research, 16, 29–41.

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