Beyond Health: Building the Health System We Need

Community is key to health care. Following the 2019 UN resolution for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a Global Action Plan was launched “with a specific focus on seven key themes that include primary health care, sustainable financing and community, and civil society engagement.” A central lesson from the HIV/AIDS and Ebola response was the vital importance to ensure community members fully understood and “owned” the interventions needed to halt infectious diseases. Our movement has a top-10 list of recommendations.

Inform, Identify and Isolate: Until widespread testing, therapeutics and vaccines become available, citizen action to curb the spread is the most important, through hand washing and physical distancing measures and connecting symptomatic people to the health system, isolating them and safely bringing them food and water while in isolation.

A Gendered Approach. In low and middle income countries, health systems are already weak, and COVID-19 threatens it further. Women have unique requirements that cannot wait – such as access to contraception, pre[ and post-natal care and safe child birth. Expert groups including UNFPA have developed and released a COVID-19 module on the Safe Delivery App to equip midwives and other skilled birth attendants in low-resource settings to protect themselves, mothers and newborns from the Coronavirus.

Demand the future health system we need. Disease is global, and building a global health system based on UHC that is responsive to local needs and resources is a global imperative. The health of everyone is at stake. In Africa, where systems are weakest, initiatives such the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are important steps that everyone must support. The needed investments are huge, and so tireless and effective advocacy is required.