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This week the Frontline Health Workers Coalition welcomed four new regional advisors from low- and middle-income countries to its steering committee, where they will help guide the coalition’s health workforce policy and advocacy work over the next year. IntraHealth International serves as the secretariat for the coalition.
“We are working to address longstanding power imbalances in the global health arena, and reflecting on ways to more comprehensively address health workforce needs,” says David Bryden, director of the Coalition. “We do not simply want to speak on behalf of health workers but rather bring them into the decision-making process, and I am very excited about this change.”
Since 2012, the Frontline Health Workers Coalition has advocated for greater US and global investment in frontline health workers, especially in low- and middle-income countries with the least access. A core policy goal for the Frontline Health Workers Coalition has been to involve frontline health workers in global and US global health policy discourse, including as speakers at events and international campaigns.
They are going to make the coalition a more powerful, effective advocate for health workers and their communities.
"I'm so happy to welcome these four outstanding new advisors to the Frontline Health Workers Coalition," says Polly Dunford, president and CEO of IntraHealth. "Their combined expertise and vast knowledge of the issues health workers are facing right now is going to make the coalition a more powerful, effective advocate for health workers and their communities everywhere."
This first cohort of Frontline Health Worker Coalition regional advisors will serve July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022. All have been involved in their countries’ COVID-19 response and together have a wide range of health workforce knowledge and expertise.
Chipo Nduna is a qualified emergency medical technician in rural Zimbabwe and is committed to upholding public trust and confidence in the delivery of health services. She’s the first point of contact for emergencies and has been on the front lines of care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have to be available 24/7 to save a life,” Nduna says. “During COVID I have received call after call. We have one major hospital in our province and when our COVID wards filled up, we had to transfer patients to Harare, 263 kilometers away. We have not had enough PPE or oxygen. Right now, the number of cases is increasing. But I have a calling and I’m not turning back.”
Nduna has gained vast experience in providing essential health services to patients in crisis situations. She holds qualifications in emergency medical tech, ambulance tech, gender and sexual reproductive health, and is currently studying toward a bachelor of science in development studies.
Dyuti Sen works as a program manager with Innovators In Health to design and implement gender-sensitive and equitable health care programs with a focus on tuberculosis and maternal and child health in rural India. Currently she leads the women’s empowerment arm of a TB project that aims to enhance capacities of over 1,000 female community health workers in Bihar, India.
“Community health workers need more support,” Sen says. “They need proper training, job descriptions, and opportunities to voice their issues. Most are women and they don’t receive the recognition they deserve.”
Previously Sen was the principal investigator for a Grand Challenges Explorations project that used multiplayer games to increase immunization demand in rural communities. She has a bachelor’s in economics from Calcutta University and in October will begin pursuing a master’s degree in international health and tropical medicine at the University of Oxford.
Nwufor Ernest Awanto is a program coordinator in Cameroon with Big-Steps Outreach, a civil society organization working on reproductive health and rights with young people. He has over nine years of experience working in the fields of HIV/AIDS and policy and advocacy with various organizations and the Ministry of Health. He has worked as a field investigator, HIV counselor, and social worker with a focus on sex workers and LGBTQI+ groups in hard-to-reach communities affected by armed conflict.
“Health workers here do not have adequate working conditions,” Awanto says. “I’ve lost three social workers I partner closely with to COVID-19. The distribution of the vaccine is very slow, especially in the areas with armed conflict and very few health workers, and there’s a lot of misinformation and fear.”
Awanto has coproduced two advocacy videos centered on ending gender-based violence, created gender equality clubs in several schools, and collaborated with local health districts and community health workers to design youth-friendly health services. Currently he's studying international social work at the University of Galve Sweden.
Tracy Kobukindo is a nurse in Uganda. She has a bachelor of science in nursing and a master’s of science in public health from the International Health Sciences University in Kampala. She currently works at Last Mile Health as a technical coordinator, utilizing digital online tools for the training of frontline health workers and community health workers in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
“Frontline health workers have traditionally kept their influence on patient management and the upgrade of technical and clinical skills,” Kobukindo says. “This is important, but we need to be at the table where and when decisions about us are being made. The whole of last year, my nurse colleagues and I had this slogan: ‘Carry your chair to the table.’ We tell them to squeeze a little bit, then, in the words of Zozibini Tunzi, ‘Take up space!’
Kobukindo has worked on development, global health, refugee programs, women and girl empowerment, and advocacy for nurses and midwives. As a nurse she has worked in public health facilities in Uganda, and has helped set up six health centers in rural hard-to-reach areas in the Elgon Region, East Region. Named as a 40 under 40 influential leader in Uganda (2013, New Vision), Tracy is driven by the need to create innovative sustainable health solutions at both the policy and service delivery level in East Africa. A facilitator at heart, Tracy is crazy about community driven development and advocacy for (and with) nurses and midwives in policy development and leadership.
Read more on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition website: New Regional Advisors Will Guide Coalition's Health Workforce Policy and Advocacy Work