EHS-COVID (67) Q1 How has COVID-19 affected the delivery of essential health services? (9) WHO survey

19 November, 2020

As we discuss the impact of COVID-19 on essential health services, I would like to highlight this recent WHO publication. Overview, selected extracts and a question from me below.

Pulse survey on continuity of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic: interim report, 27 August 2020


The Pulse survey on continuity of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic aimed to gain initial insight from country key informants into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on essential health services across the life course. The survey results in this interim report can improve our understanding of the extent of disruptions across all services, the reasons for disruptions, and the mitigation strategies countries are using to maintain service delivery.


'WHO conducted a key informant survey among ministry of health officials in five WHO regions between May and July 2020...

'In general, disruptions of essential health services were reported by nearly all countries, and more so in lower-income than higher-income countries. The great majority of service disruptions were partial, which was defined as a change of 5–50% in service provision or use. Severe/complete disruptions were defined as a change of more than 50% in service provision or use.

'All services were affected, including essential services for communicable diseases, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, and nutrition services. Emergency services were the least disrupted, although 16 countries reported disruptions across all emergency services. The most severely affected service delivery platforms were mobile services, often suspended by government, and campaigns, for example as used for malaria prevention or immunization.

'The causes of the disruptions were a mix of demand and supply factors. On the demand side, 76% of countries reported reductions in outpatient care attendance. Other factors, such as lockdowns hindering access and financial difficulties during lockdown were also mentioned. On the supply side, the most commonly reported factor was cancellation of elective services (66%)...'

COMMENT (NPW): Do these observations align with what you are seeing in your country or your healthcare facility? Can you give any examples of impact in your experience?

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, WHO-HIFA Collaboration: HIFA project on Essential Health Services and COVID-19

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: