Amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic, Community Health Workers (CHWs) stood as an inspiring example of resilience. In the heart of communities, they worked tirelessly, yet often overlooked by conventional healthcare systems.
In the wake of the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, our world witnessed the unwavering dedication of health and care workers who stood at the forefront, to provide care selflessly. However, a recent report by Resolve to Save Lives and The World Bank has unveiled a concerning reality: The health and care workforce faced grave risks due to inadequate protection and support during the early stages of the pandemic. This report not only serves as a wake-up call but also charts a path toward building stronger, more resilient healthcare systems that prioritize the safety and well-being of those who serve on the front lines.
Our Co-Executive Director, Nan Chen, shared insights during the launch of the report, summarized as key takeaways that should guide collective efforts in creating a safer and more robust healthcare workforce.
Champions of Community Health Workers
In a world where collaboration is imperative, champions from various domains must seize every window of opportunity to enhance financing aimed at safeguarding health and care workers. This underscores the urgency of investing in the health and care workforce who tirelessly serve, protect communities, and drive progress. Moreover, the report’s focus on collective champions underscores the power of uniting voices and experiences to drive change. The call is clear: Let us collectively rally to #InvestInHealthcare, recognizing and supporting those who dedicate their lives to our well-being. We agreed with Tom Frieden and Resolve to Save Lives’ recommendation to invest in policies, protective equipment, and data systems that allow for the planning and tracking of PPE as well as diseases.
Count Community Health Workers (CHWs)
We stressed the critical significance of accurately counting CHWs because it forms the bedrock for their protection, resource allocation, and collective action. By safeguarding the well-being of CHWs, we fortify the foundation of healthcare, ensuring their value is recognized, and their lives safeguarded. The report’s omission of CHWs due to data limitations underscores the broader issue of the lack of recognition, insufficient protective measures, and inadequate compensation for CHWs. The Covid-19 pandemic has starkly demonstrated this, with the health and care workforce, especially CHWs, being the last to receive essential personal protective equipment (PPE). This neglect places both the healthcare workers and the communities they serve at heightened risk.
The report’s omission of CHWs due to data limitations underscores the broader issue of the lack of recognition, insufficient protective measures, and inadequate compensation for CHWs.
Smart Investments for a Resilient Society
Investment and protection of the health and care workforce in community-based primary healthcare systems is an investment in a resilient society. Nan affirms that such investments prevent infection, halt the spread of diseases, and contribute to building a more robust and prepared society. This creates a healthcare ecosystem that is not only reactive but proactive in addressing challenges before they escalate. The way forward must encompass a systems-based approach that builds capabilities as noted by fellow panelists, and very articulately expressed by moderator Jumana Qamruddin in this recent article.
More Money for Health, More Health for Money
Nan’s message resounds clearly: The health systems need increased funding to ensure a healthier populace. The concept that investing more in healthcare yields healthier returns is true. This investment is more than monetary; it’s a pledge to secure the health, safety, and prosperity of our collective future. Addressing healthcare worker safety also demands a shift in financing mechanisms and cultivating political champions. Africa Frontline First’s emphasis on a systems approach and the Catalytic Fund for community health can serve as models for governments and international organizations. When CHWs are counted, we enhance their safety and support, and by uniting for change can we ensure that Africa’s health workforce thrives in an enabling continent to overcome its health challenges and secure a healthier future for all.
Addressing healthcare worker safety also demands a shift in financing mechanisms and cultivating political champions. Africa Frontline First’s emphasis on a systems approach and the Catalytic Fund for community health can serve as models for governments and international organizations.
The lessons gleaned from this report beckon us to act and urge governments, institutions, and individuals to unite in safeguarding those who tirelessly safeguard us. Through collaboration, data-driven decisions, and strategic investments, we hold the power to reshape healthcare systems, ensuring they stand resilient against today’s trials and tomorrow’s uncertainties.