Let’s remember to thank these health workers in our fight against COVID-19

Aakash Ganju
Saathealth Spotlight
3 min readNov 25, 2020

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The COVID -19 pandemic has brightened the spotlight on the role of primary healthcare in preventing and managing disease outbreaks. While this has been one of the many priorities for the World Health Organization in the past, 2020 has provided a booster shot in the arm for the proponents of primary healthcare investments. With stories in the Economist, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, the BMJ amongst many others, the conversation on the need to invest in public and primary healthcare has moved from esoteric health policy circles to becoming the subject of drawing room conversations across the world. Suddenly, the link from strong primary healthcare to a strong and resilient economy is evident to all.

To most people, uncertain about the nuances of primary healthcare (especially in unstructured health systems where patients seek out super-specialist cardiologists or endocrinologists for managing routine hypertension and diabetes), the WHO defines primary healthcare as -

· meeting people’s health needs throughout their lives;· addressing the broader determinants of health through multisectoral policy and action; and

· empowering individuals, families and communities to take charge of their own health.

Briefly, primary healthcare touchpoints look at your needs holistically, continually and in a manner, that empowers you to make healthier choices.

Health consumers as suppliers of healthcare services

As and when the global community commits to greater primary healthcare investments, we must look to non-traditional ways to boost capacity. This is because we only have so many doctors and nurses and health workers that we can add. Our experience with COVID-19 has also shown that there is an important constituency of health worker we have ignored to acknowledge– the health consumer.

I have written in the past about the primary healthcare crisis and the rise of the empowered health consumer. At no point has this rise been more evident than over the last 8 months. While much credit is due to the health workers who have tirelessly worked to manage COVID-19, we must also recognize the role that citizens have played in this fight.

For over 8 months, citizens and health consumers have rearranged their lives, distanced and masked themselves, increased hand washing practices and championed these practices within friend and family circles. The job of health awareness, traditionally the reserve of community health workers, has received a booster shot with our parents, uncles and aunts, proselytizing positive preventive health practices within their communities. The health consumers that struggle to amend their food, exercise, smoking, drinking and driving habits, have made sweeping changes to their lives for COVID prevention. These changed behaviors, at a scale never seen before, have been as crucial in the fight against the current pandemic as the efforts of health workers. We must pause and acknowledge the role of these health workers in addressing the greatest pandemic of our lifetime.

Aligning with consumers to boost healthcare capacity

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As we work our way out of the current pandemic, investing in preventive practices will be a vital tool in building up resilience and capacity in our primary care systems. We need to expand the resources available to do this. For far too long, we have treated the health consumer as a passive recipient of interventions designed by the experts. It’s time to on-board them as crucial allies and active participants in championing preventive practices fighting our health battles. As our experience with COVID has shown, empowering health consumers with the right knowledge and tools can be a huge ally in our quest for healthier communities.

Dr Aakash Ganju is the CEO of Saathealth, an AI powered, chronic care digital health platform.

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Aakash Ganju
Saathealth Spotlight

Father, Founder/CEO @Saathealth, entrepreneur, all things health + learning + innovation