COVID-19 disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable. Community health workers are poised to play a pivotal role in fighting the pandemic, especially in countries with less resilient health systems. Drawing from practitioner expertise across four WHO regions, this article outlines the targeted actions needed at different stages of the pandemic to achieve the following goals: (1) PROTECT healthcare workers, (2) INTERRUPT the virus, (3) MAINTAIN existing healthcare services while surging their capacity, and (4) SHIELD the most vulnerable from socioeconomic shocks. While decisive action must be taken now to blunt the impact of the pandemic in countries likely to be hit the hardest, many of the investments in the supply chain, compensation, dedicated supervision, continuous training and performance management necessary for rapid community response in a pandemic are the same as those required to achieve universal healthcare and prevent the next epidemic.
- health systems
- health policy
- public health
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Contributors EB and MB conceptualised the project. MB drafted the work. All authors made substantial contributions to the drafting of the work, contributing various sections and revising it critically for important intellectual content. All authors gave final approval of the version to be published.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.