EHS-COVID (484) Q2 How have you responded to the challenges of COVID-19? (7) Digital health (5)

28 November, 2021

WHO is developing a collection of Action Briefs on Maintaining essential health services during the pandemic (and beyond):

One of these, from the ESTHER Alliance for Global Health Partnerships, looks at 'The use of digital platforms in maintaining essential health services'

Key points and a comment from me below. Full text here:

- International partnerships can play a crucial role in developing and maintaining essential health services in LMICs.

- The adoption of digital learning strategies during the pandemic was an important element in maintaining essential health services in diverse settings.

- The development of webinars centred on the needs of participants, combined with an integrated social media campaign, were effective in driving engagement.

- How has COVID-19 impacted your organisation in delivering essential health services?

- Institutional North-South partnerships play an important role in developing essential services in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Due to travel restrictions and reduced availability for collaboration COVID-19 has disrupted North-South institutional partnership programmes addressing essential health services.

'The ESTHER Alliance and Irish Global Health Network launched a webinar series ‘Conversations on COVID-19’ via Zoom with a specific focus on LMICs. The webinar series was aimed at healthcare and development workers, serving to educate, inform, share best practice and evidence-based responses around COVID-19 in LMICs. Most topics directly or indirectly addressed the challenges of maintaining health services in the context of the pandemic.'

'Topics relating to essential services included: Funding Challenges; Hospital Readiness; North-South Partnerships during COVID-19; Lessons learned from HIV & Ebola epidemics; Leveraging Research and Evidence; Protecting Health Care Workers; Health Systems Impacts of COVID-19; Essential Services for NCD Patients in Ethiopia; Malnutrition...'

Outcomes included:

- Supported countries in maintaining essential health services.

- Responded to travel restrictions with alternative way for partners to meet and share learnings.

- Webinars were effective in capturing and sharing learning at sub national level.

- Demonstrated value of North-South partnership model at a time of significant disruption.

COMMENT (NPW): The use of web conferencing tools has clearly been hugely important for North-South partnership communication. Would anyone like to comment on their use for national and subnational communications to maintain essential health services? What are the befits and challenges compared to face-to-face meetings?

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,