The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will require that decision makers make difficult choices to ensure that COVID-19 and other urgent ongoing public health problems are addressed, while minimizing risk to health workers and communities. When health systems are overwhelmed and access to high-quality services is compromised, both direct mortality from an outbreak and avertable mortality from preventable and treatable conditions can increase dramatically. Maintaining population trust in the capacity of the health system to control infection risk in health facilities and provide high-quality services is key to ensuring appropriate care-seeking behaviour and to keep to public health advice.
The WHO operational guidance for maintaining essential health services during an outbreak provides guidance on “a set of targeted immediate actions that countries should consider at national, regional, and local level to reorganize and maintain access to essential quality health services for all. It complements existing and forthcoming WHO guidance on the wider implications of COVID-19 for health systems and cross-government strategies for responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Careful consideration of all domains of quality – effectiveness, safety, people-centeredness, timeliness, equity, efficiency and integration – is critical to adapting activities in the pandemic context to ensure continuity of essential services and ensure effective response to COVID-19.
Historically, demand and use of routine essential health services, including those related to MNCH, reproductive services, immunizations, malaria, TB HIV etc. have decreased during outbreaks. This will require careful consideration by each country to optimize service delivery systems. This webinar explores this further, recognizing that the world is learning collectively on how best to tackle the evolving situation.
About the presenters
Dr. Edward Kelley is the Director of the Department of Integrated Health Services in the UHC & Life Course Division at WHO Headquarters in Geneva. He is also WHO’s lead on Health Systems and Services for the organization’s COVID-19 response efforts. Prior to joining WHO, Dr Kelley directed the US National Healthcare Reports for the US Department of Health and Human Services in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). He also directed the 28-country Health Care Quality Improvement (HCQI) Project at the OECD. Formerly, Dr Kelley worked for 10 years in West and North Africa and Latin America, directing research on the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness in Niger as a Quality Assurance Advisor for the USAID-sponsored Quality Assurance Project (QAP) and Partnerships for Health Reform Project Plus (PHRPlus).
Dr Shams Syed is the Quality Team Lead in the Department of Integrated Health Services at WHO Headquarters. He directly oversees the WHO national quality policy and strategy initiative as well as the technical work on quality in fragile, conflict-affected and vulnerable settings. Dr Syed oversaw the development of the architecture of current WHO efforts on quality and resilience as the Coordinator for Quality Systems & Resilience prior to his current role. His WHO career has provided an opportunity to work directly with over 30 countries across the world. He has a focused current academic interest in reverse innovation in global health systems. He maintains teaching roles in his spare time, including at Johns Hopkins.
Dr Teri Reynolds leads the Clinical Services and Systems Unit in the department of Integrated Health Services. Ensuring that all people have timely access to needed health services is at the core of UHC. Essential components include comprehensive preventive and longitudinal care close to home, reliable access to acute and emergency care for time-sensitive conditions, and early appropriate referral care. With the establishment of the Clinical Services and Systems Unit, WHO brings together for the first time its work on integrated delivery channels -including primary care, emergency care, critical care, surgical care and palliative care- with a new focus on effective organization and people’s movement across the health system. Dr Reynolds previously led the emergency and trauma care programmes at WHO and currently coordinates the department efforts on maintaining essential health services during the COVID-19 outbreak.