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Health Workers Are Essential, During the Pandemic and Beyond

Here’s how we can invest in them.

We’ve all heard the term “health worker heroes.” But really, they’re health worker humans.

Health workers are just people, like us. They’ve been working in incredibly challenging situations, especially during the past year. They’re not magic. They don’t have superpowers that let them never sleep or make them invincible against disease. They’re real people. They’re people who have families and hobbies and needs—inside and outside of work.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that health workers are essential to us all. But we never ask the question: what’s essential to health workers?

You can’t just focus on medicines to fight disease.

This is something we spend a lot of time thinking about at IntraHealth International. And the answers are many: Fair and decent housing, steady paychecks, regular training, masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment so that they can do the job safely. They need protection from burnout. They need protection for their mental health. And they need supportive supervisors and strong managers and the right technology at their fingertips.

There’s a lot of complexity in delivering health care; a lot of moving parts that have to come together to make it happen. And health workers who are trained and deployed where they’re needed most are at the center of it all.

So that’s why we look at the whole health worker and the whole health system. You can’t just focus on medicines, for example, to fight disease. Drugs and medicines are essential. We’re all thrilled that now we have these amazing COVID-19 vaccines. But there’s so much focus on the vaccine that no one’s talking about the people it will take to deliver them.

Who is going to give all those shots?

We’re talking about a massive global vaccine rollout that’s bigger and faster than humanity has ever attempted. There are 7.8 billion of us today. Who is going to give all those shots?

We’re going to need more nurses, midwives, and community health workers, all ready and deployed to every city and community in the world. If we don’t have the right people in place, no amount of product will help us succeed. We need lab techs, IT professionals, drivers, cleaners, advocates, clinicians—they’re all health workers. And they’re all essential. We need to invest in them.

Also read: 2 ways Biden can help health workers and fight COVID-19

Here are some events and campaigns going on this World Health Worker Week and beyond that will help you do just that:

  • Part 2 of our series on Nurses for Gender Equality and Decent Work. April 6, 8–10 am ET. Register here.  
  • SwitchPoint Essential. This event puts the spotlight on essential workers from throughout the health care field, including clinicians, drivers, cleaners, advocates, and more. April 7, 8–10am ET. Register here
  • Our #ApplauseIsNotEnough video campaign , in partnership with the Frontline Health Workers Coalition and Chemonics, where we ask health workers to share what they need, beyond praise and applause. Invite any health workers you know to participate and check out the videos here
  • SwitchPoint Virtual Exchange event COVID-19: Back to the Future. Experts from around the world will look back at their own warnings about pandemics and more from their past SwitchPoint talks and share what they see ahead for all of us on the horizon. April 23, 10am–12:30pm ET. Register here
  • We’ll feature stories from health workers all week on IntraHealth’s blog, VITAL
  • Make sure your elected representatives in government know where you stand. Call on them to act for health workers. Ask them to make an emergency and long-term investment to better support and protect health workers to ensure there are enough skilled, equipped health workers to deliver lifesaving vaccines AND essential health services for everyone everywhere. When we invest in health workers, we invest in our future—the future we want.
  • And much more—check out the Frontline Health Workers Coalition for additional details.