IntraHealth International Urges Action to Protect Frontline Health Workers amid COVID-19 Pandemic

We at IntraHealth International are joining our partners in the Frontline Health Workers Coalition to urge action to protect health workers from on-the-job dangers introduced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Never has there been a more important time to focus on health workers,” said Polly Dunford, IntraHealth’s president and CEO, in Devex last week. “Rarely have they faced such danger on such a massive scale. We have an obligation to keep frontline health workers everywhere safe, including making sure all have the personal protective equipment they need.”

As more health workers get sick, hospitals become shorter-staffed and more overwhelmed.

Worldwide, health workers are facing huge risks as shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE)—along with the longstanding global shortage of health workers—leaves many battling this infectious disease over long shifts and without the proper supplies. As more health workers become sick with—or even die from—coronavirus complications, hospitals become shorter-staffed and more overwhelmed. This leaves communities everywhere more vulnerable to coronavirus as well as everyday health needs, such as services for maternal and child health, HIV, family planning, hypertension, and more.

Read the Frontline Health Workers Coalition’s policy recommendations for COVID-19 response.

IntraHealth is calling for urgent action to protect health workers, including to:

  • Get personnel and PPE to where it’s needed. We must work with our local partners to determine what data they have available and help aggregate it to inform their decisions on where to deploy health workers and PPE.
  • Connect health workers to information through digital health. “This is not a time for classroom learning in big groups or for reinventing wheels,” Dunford says. “Our solutions don’t have to be shiny and new—they just have to work.” We should work with local partners in low- and middle-income countries to activate systems and technology that are already in place to connect health workers with real-time updates and education. mHero is a great example of this.
  • Decongest health facilities. We can do this by helping our partners make greater use of telemedicine and provide multimonth doses of medications, such as antiretroviral therapy for clients who live with HIV.
  • Spread the word about what works. NGOs can help document and share best practices and adapt policies to scale up burgeoning successes in the COVID response from around the world.
  • Use data and planning to surge health worker deployment. We can help our government partners aggregate and use data to strategically deploy more health workers during this emergency.
  • Organize free child care and temporary housing. This will help more health workers—particularly women, who make up the bulk of the health workforce and who tend to have more caretaking responsibilities at home—keep their families safe from infection and lower stress on the job.
  • Ensure health care for health workers. Health workers should be routinely tested for COVID-19 at no personal cost, and offered counseling when they need it for depression, burnout, and substance abuse. Their own health-related expenses should be fully covered throughout the course of this pandemic.
  • Listen to and elevate the voices of frontline health workers on exactly what they need. Any and all solutions we offer should be developed with input from health workers.
  • Tap existing networks. In francophone West Africa, religious leaders and youth ambassadors are taking to social media with crucial messages about COVID-19 and family planning. We should partner with networks like these for fast, low-cost impact.

Read more:

IntraHealth serves as the secretariat for the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, an alliance of US-based organizations working together to urge greater and more strategic investments in frontline health workers in low- and middle-income countries as a cost-effective way to save lives and foster a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world.