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From the Front Lines to Prime Time: How These Health Workers’ Stories Are Reaching Millions

Jimmy Fallon and other late-night hosts are giving frontline health workers star treatment.

Back in 2017, we had an idea.

We thought that if policy-makers could hear the same stories we hear every day—about the challenges, the heartbreak, and the victories frontline health workers face on the job—they would think differently about investing in health care and the health workforce. That they would see the real, human impact those investments make.

So we tried it. We teamed up with the Medtronic Foundation and provided professional storytelling training to a handful of health workers from around the world. And then we did it again the next year with different health workers. And the next, and the next. (Listen to their stories here.)

The results have been beyond what we expected.


We found that the training—combined with a microphone and a platform from which health workers can reach new audiences—has helped those health workers advocate more effectively for investments in health workers in low- and middle-income countries, everywhere from their own communities to the highest levels of policymaking.

Just last weekend, Dr. Sanele Madela—a South African community physician who took part in our first storytelling training in 2017—spoke with Jimmy Fallon in front of millions of viewers about how he and his country are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was during the One World: Together at Home special that aired and streamed at prime time. Interviews with Madela and other health workers were interspersed with more than 70 celebrity appearances and performances to support frontline health workers and the World Health Organization.

Sanele explained that more than 25% of adults in his community are living with HIV and right now they need “huge assistance and help from the WHO and others to support health workers on the front line.”

Jimmy Fallon. Celebrities. Prime time. We’re delighted to see frontline health workers get the star treatment they deserve.

“Stories are among our most powerful advocacy tools,” says Vince Blaser, director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition and advocacy advisor at IntraHealth. “They can influence global policies and foreign assistance budgets. They can change people’s minds and their communities. We’ve seen that equipping frontline health workers with the tools they need to tell their stories and advocate for the services they provide doesn’t just change health services for a few clients—it has the potential to help us reach universal health coverage for all.”

Today the COVID-19 pandemic has given the world more reason than ever to listen to what frontline health workers have to say. They know their communities’ health challenges better than anyone—and as the pandemic spreads to their countries, they face the greatest risk of infection.

“The storytelling training has created a global platform for frontline health workers to reach a wider audience and engage policy makers on first-hand experience for informed policy decisions,” says Sanele. "Speaking to such a large audience is the best opportunity any health worker can have to put our experience across advocating for change in this noble profession.”

Health workers we’ve trained have also spoken to audiences at major global gatherings, the kind that can shape the course of health care around the world. These include:

“The Medtronic Foundation is committed to health workers on the front lines of health care delivery in underserved communities,” says Jessica Daly, director of global health at the Medtronic Foundation. “Empowering their voices, ensuring they have the platforms to convey their realities, priorities, and opportunities to decision-makers and the general public, is essential to our collective progress in global health. We’re proud to partner with IntraHealth and frontline health workers like Dr. Sanele to place the microphone where it should be.”

We’re so proud to offer health workers a mic. We’re also working to make sure they have the training, equipment, and support they need to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. You can help. Donate to the COVID-19 Frontline Health Worker Fund now.

Want to hear stories from frontline health workers? Check out: