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From everyday infection prevention to repurposing Ebola response, these approaches are helping health systems manage the coronavirus threat.
It’s a whole new world for many of us this week.
The US-based staff at IntraHealth International are working from home, conducting all our meetings online, and working fast to adapt our programs to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.
For 40 years, we’ve known that frontline health workers are every country's first line in detecting, reporting, and responding to emerging threats. That's why we train and equip local health workers on disease surveillance and response, infection prevention, occupational safety and health, and much more. That’s why they’re our mission.
Here are three ways our tools and teams around the world are already working to halt the spread of coronavirus and keep health workers safe as they provide care in a crisis.
mHero—a two-way communication platform that we and our partners developed during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa—connects ministries of health with frontline health workers in even the remotest regions, allowing for real-time information exchange and a more effective outbreak response.
Today Liberia’s Ministry of Health is using mHero as a surveillance and response platform for a range of diseases, such as Lassa fever, measles, and cholera. They’re also using it to send COVID-19 messages to health workers as part of the country’s response to the epidemic.
“Donors like USAID, DFID, World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are asking, ‘What global digital health solutions are available for international COVID response that can be implemented by government health systems in low- and middle-income countries?’” says Wayan Vota, IntraHealth’s director of digital health. “The way Liberia is using mHero is a perfect example of how it’s possible for countries to quickly adapt existing technology and infrastructure during a health emergency.”
Read more: 10 Global Digital Health Solutions for International Coronavirus Response
Rwanda was ready for Ebola. The country had been braced for any infections that might cross its borders from Democratic Republic of Congo, in part by partnering with us to institute a national call center, train health providers and community health workers on surveillance, screening, and case management, including use of personal protective equipment, create isolation units for suspected cases, and put infection-prevention measures such as handwashing stations in place throughout the country.
Now that the Ebola outbreak is over, Rwanda has been able to easily begin directing those established systems and procedures toward its COVID-19 response. There are now 7 confirmed cases in the country.
“We’re now raising public awareness and education and exploring ways to extend training to health workers to ensure that they are well equipped to identify and manage suspect cases,” says Samson Radeny, IntraHealth’s country director in Rwanda.
Read more: The Future of Health Care in Rwanda Starts with a Strong Government Partnership
Watch: mHero: A Cost-Effective, Real-Time Communications Solution for National COVID-19 Response
In Mali, we’ve worked with the Ministry of Health, individual health facilities, and our community partners to prepare for emergencies—systemically and sustainably.
Together we’ve boosted epidemiological surveillance and data reviews for influenza, polio, measles, hemorrhagic fevers, yellow fever, and meningitis to more than 95% in four districts. We’ve developed national health and safety plans. And our training on infection prevention at one western Malian hospital not only reduced infections and complications—it also helped prevent an Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Read the story: How Local Fistula Training Helped Prevent an Ebola Outbreak in Mali
Now Mali is finalizing its COVID-19 action plans in national and regional reference hospitals and working to equip health facilities with the hygiene and prevention supplies they need. Data from iHRIS are helping officials deploy the right numbers and types of health workers to critical sites. And staff in health facilities, airports, and border crossings are being trained on coronavirus and hygiene measures.
“When it comes to strengthening the health system in Mali—whether it’s through preventing infectious disease outbreaks or addressing the country’s health worker shortage—we are always looking for solutions that are local and sustainable,” says Jeanne Tessougué, who leads IntraHealth’s Mali Human Resources for Health Strengthening Activity. “Today we are building on the progress Mali has made to prepare for COVID-19 through a well-coordinated One Health multisectoral approach. We’re reinforcing the presence and capacity of frontline health workers so they can implement standard operating procedures and updated guidelines and use tools that have been adapted to the context of this health emergency.”
Also read: Resilient Nursing School in Northern Mali Graduates 126 New Health Workers for the Region
IntraHealth’s Mali Human Resources for Health Strengthening Activity and Ingobyi in Rwanda are funded by the US Agency for International Development. Our work with mHero was a collaboration with UNICEF and was funded by the US Agency for International Development.
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