About the project


Medical deserts are remote rural regions and deprived urban areas that lack an adequate supply of medical personnel and healthcare services.

They constitute a growing concern across Europe as they reduce the effectiveness of healthcare systems, which are currently under considerable strain in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have severe negative impacts on population health.

Despite existing research on health workforce planning and health disparities, the concept of medical deserts is ambiguous and lacks specificity. Although EU countries and regions have developed policy responses and approaches to address medical deserts, there is insufficient evidence on what policy interventions are most effective at reducing medical deserts.

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ROUTE-HWF aims to help EU Member States to improve timely access to high-quality healthcare across all EU regions, thus reducing disparities in population health. 

The project’s specific objectives are:

Work packages

ROUTE-HWF consists of eight inter-related work packages (WPs):

WP1: Coordination of the project

WP2: Dissemination of the project

WP3: Evaluation of the project

WP4: Development of a definition and taxonomy of medical deserts

WP5: Development of guidelines for monitoring and measuring medical deserts

WP6: Development of the ROUTE-HWF roadmap

WP7: Case studies on medical deserts

WP8: Consensus-building workshop


The main activities that the ROUTE-HWF team performs over the duration of the project, 1 March 2021 – 28 February 2024, include: