COVID-19: Helping Countries Strengthen their Systems to Respond

June 30th, 2020 | News

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We have worked to strengthen health systems for more than 40 years, helping countries, states, public health agencies, and facilities deliver services that can meet people’s needs and withstand shocks. Today the world’s health systems are experiencing such a shock with COVID-19.

We implement programs in more than 40 countries, and our teams of public health professionals are being asked to support government efforts in many of them. Around the world, our colleagues and partners are applying the knowledge we have gained from years of responding to public health crises—from SARS and Ebola to avian flu and cholera—to bolster the systems that people need in times like these. 

In many countries, our teams have been included in the Ministry of Health emergency response and technical working groups, helping develop policies to keep people—both health providers and the general public—safe.

Strategic communication is at the core of an effective emergency response. Providing evidence-based and easily consumable information about the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to helping communities take action to protect the wellbeing of all members.

Learn more about our work in Ethiopia, Timor-Leste, and Zambia: 

Ethiopia

Timor-Leste

Zambia

In Burkina Faso, the Ministry of Health is using the One-Health platform that we helped to develop to track COVID-19 cases, testing, and contact tracing across the country. We provided an additional 66 tablets to help with data entry in the Centre Region (Ouagadougou) and avoid the risks of transmission with paper-based reports. Our team is taking an active part in the COVID-19 surveillance working group and is providing key support to the government in this difficult time.

In India, we are providing strategic communications support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through the JSI India-managed Technical Support Unit. We are coordinating with partners to develop various COVID-related strategies and communication materials, and developing platforms for states to share their learning and experiences.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, our USAID Cure Tuberculosis Project was requested by the MOH to support the development and implementation of an information system to track and share laboratory results for COVID-19 tests. Our team expanded its previously-developed and widely-used Laboratory Data Management Information System (LDMIS) to monitor and share lab results for tuberculosis and included a new module on COVID-19 tests. The new system has been implemented in 10 laboratories in the capital of Bishkek and in the four regions of Jalal-Abad, Naryn, Talas, and Osh. More than 100,000 test results have been entered into the system. We continue to fine-tune the system to ensure the quality of data and protection of personal information. The test results tracking system allows laboratory specialists to save time on data input and processing, skip the paperwork, and make the data exchange safer thanks to fewer personal contacts and lower physical documentation flow. The system offers many benefits including a test database and patient test history. The system automatically shares relevant data with other systems to inform the fight against COVID-19.

In Pakistan, where the focus has long been on global health security, through the Integrated Health Systems Strengthening and Service Delivery (IHSS-SD) project, we are working with the Government of Pakistan to address gaps identified in the disease surveillance system through investments in infrastructure and human resources. We are supporting provincial and district governments to create or strengthen Disease Surveillance and Response Units. These units use technology solutions to capture real-time data on suspected cases and contacts and alert rapid response teams to identify, test, and, with positive cases, isolate patients for additional care to halt transmission. 

In Tanzania, our Community Health and Social Welfare Systems Strengthening Program is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children to strengthen the health system to respond to COVID-19. JSI is developing a distance-learning platform to support the Ministry to rapidly train regional, council, and ward level social welfare officers as well as learning materials to train 18,800 community case workers to support Tanzanian communities on how to prevent COVID-19.

In the United States, our staff have been deployed to support state health department efforts to respond to COVID-19. Staff are assisting with triage and responding to inquiries from the public, businesses, and health care providers. In addition, staff who have nursing degrees are providing support to case investigation and contact notification efforts. Our staff have also provided just-in-time training to volunteers in COVID-19 response processes, and are implementing process improvements so that health department employees can focus on the many complex aspects of the public health response.

These are just a few of the ways that our programs and staff are currently using our expertise to strengthen health systems to improve services—and ultimately, people’s health.

Protect Yourself and Your Community. Help stop the spread of COVID-19: Clean your hands often. Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Keep 6 feet away from others when possible. If you feel sick, stay home when you can. Listen for orders from your local government to stay home. Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow. Learn more about COVID-19 and if you have further questions, the WHO is continuously monitoring and responding to this outbreak, visit their Q&A page updated regularly.

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