One way to help fight preventable disease: Focus on frontline health workers

One way to help fight preventable disease: Focus on frontline health workers

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By Scott Weathers, Frontline Health Workers Coalition

What investment could help prevent another massive public health disaster—the next Ebola—all while potentially preventing needless deaths of mothers and children and fighting global killers like HIV/AIDS?

Over on Capitol Hill, Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), and a growing list of co-sponsors have an answer in House Resolution 419Frontline health workers.

Two health care workers check each other’s personal protective equipment during their final evaluation inside a mock Ebola treatment unit as part of the Department of Defense Ebola Treatment Training Team’s final class at the National Police Training Academy, Paynesville, Liberia, on Dec. 23, 2014. (Photo credit: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance Public Affairs)

Two health care workers check each other’s personal protective equipment during their final evaluation inside a mock Ebola treatment unit in Paynesville, Liberia, in 2014. (Photo credit: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance Public Affairs)

This resolution would recognize the enormous impact of these health workers, whose work often puts their own well-being in great danger. It would also urge strong U.S. leadership and a coordinated U.S. government-wide action plan for its investments to help those same frontline health workers.

Nearly one in 14 health workers in Liberia died during the Ebola epidemic. Compounding this devastating loss, a recent analysis found that more than 4,000 women could die in childbirth in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone this year solely due to the loss of frontline health workers.

If global leaders want to achieve the new Global Goals, we have to prioritize frontline health workers. On the sidelines of the SDG Summit in New York in September, presidents and prime ministers from Germany to Ghana and leaders from Bill Gates to Margaret Chan agreed: Frontline health workers must count.

One year removed from cases of Ebola here in the United States, it’s heartening to see lawmakers and influencers take heart and respond to the long-term lessons!

We at the Frontline Health Workers Coalition will be continuing to support sustained action for health workers in the world’s most remote and neglected settings.

Scott Weathers is a Global Health Corps Policy Fellow at IntraHealth International, working on the secretariat of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, an alliance of US-based organizations, including ONE, urging greater and more strategic U.S. investment in frontline health workers in developing countries as a cost-effective way to save lives and foster a healthier, safer, and more prosperous world. Follow him on Twitter.

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