By: Madeleine Ballard
In March, the organizations of the Community Health Impact Coalition released a widely circulated white paper articulating priorities for the global COVID-19 response. This week, the white paper was published in BMJ Global Health.
The four priorities articulated in the paper remain a critical yardstick against which to measure the response.
1. PROTECT healthcare workers.
Without personal protective equipment (PPE) community health workers (CHWs) can neither maintain existing health services nor conduct the additional services required to interrupt and control the virus. PPE has emerged as a major bottleneck: CHWs—despite being a critical part of the response—are, in many places, not receiving personal protective equipment.
To stand with CHWs we must address the:
● Absolute PPE shortage
● Inequity in PPE access
● Exclusion of CHWs from national PPE projections
More action is urgently required: learn more about how you can act.
2. INTERRUPT the virus
WHO, UNICEF and IFRC have produced guidance on community-based health care, including outreach and campaigns, during COVID-19. Multiple countries have adapted this guidance and produced open-source training materials, shared here.
3. MAINTAIN existing healthcare services while surging capacity
During times of crisis, essential health services often decline, which can ultimately kill more people than the pandemic itself. How do we ensure CHW programs in which we invest during the pandemic will continue to provide health & economic returns long after it?
The investments necessary for rapid community response in an epidemic are the same as those required to prevent the next pandemic. Strengthening healthcare delivery systems—which starts by designating CHWs as part of the essential workforce–is possible now. Here’s how.
4. SHIELD the most vulnerable from socioeconomic shocks
More needs to be done to support immediate cash injections at the household and village level & ensure CHWs are equipped to provide holistic support. Organizations working on these issues convene each week to jointly tackle program and operational issues—join us.
The crisis looks different today than it did in March, and much progress has been made in protecting health workers, interrupting the virus, maintaining essential health services and shielding the most vulnerable. Yet as daily cases hit record highs, the pandemic is far from over. The targeted actions needed at different stages of the pandemic articulated in the article remain as relevant as ever—read the full piece here.
Madeleine Ballard is the Executive Director at Community Health Impact Coalition and an Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.