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Having enough health workers won’t make diseases go away, but it can prevent them from becoming pandemics in the first place.
Here in North Carolina, we all know someone who works in health care. Maybe there’s a nurse in your family, a physician, a data clerk, a pharmacist.
These “frontline health workers” are in the spotlight right now as they face unprecedented dangers during every shift they work.
Frontline health workers are literally putting themselves on the line—at great personal risk—to respond to COVID-19, stop its spread, and save their patients lives. At IntraHealth International, we’ve seen this before. We saw it during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and then a few years later in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now we’re all seeing it in our back yards.
That’s because pandemics like COVID-19 don’t respect political boundaries—they never have, and they never will.
At IntraHealth—where we work to improve the performance of health workers and strengthen the systems in which they work—we’ve also seen first-hand the power of prepared, supported, and connected teams of frontline health workers in containing and responding to infectious disease outbreaks.Having enough well-trained, well-placed, and well-protected health workers won’t make diseases go away, but it can prevent them from becoming pandemics in the first place.
The world is facing a shortage of 18 million health workers, particularly in low- and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, and especially affecting clinics and communities most in need. But it affects every country, and right now in North Carolina, we’re seeing similar challenges up close.
Pandemics like COVID-19 don’t respect political boundaries—they never have, and they never will.
IntraHealth, based in Chapel Hill, is one of 220 organizations in North Carolina focusing on global health. We also head up the Frontline Health Workers Coalition in Washington, which advocates for more investment and stronger policies in support of frontline health workers worldwide. Last month, the coalition released our recommendations to policymakers on COVID-19 for low- and middle-income countries, many of which are in the early stages of the pandemic. We’re asking our leaders in the US and in global institutions to:
It’s telling that Deborah Birx, Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS, has been the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the federal government. The United States’ 17-year commitment to aggressively combatting HIV/AIDS globally has made a huge impact—saving millions of lives and preventing millions of new infections. It’s this type of bold, sustained investment that can ease the global impact of COVID-19—if we understand and commit to prioritizing global public health.
Americans travel to every corner of the globe...and then they travel back. If we don’t expand our prevention and response efforts to other countries, we’re neglecting the reality of the world we live in.
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