The global increase in COVID-19 cases in 2021 has primarily been due to an uncontrolled surge in South Asia. It is estimated that by 1 September 2021, approximately 1.4 million in South Asians will die due to COVID-19 alone. The total number of excess deaths will be much higher—including non-COVID causes, as health systems are on the brink of collapse. With 33.4% of South Asians being extremely poor and the large-scale loss of livelihood being reported, the region faces a potentially catastrophic future for the ongoing decade. However, countries in South Asia continue to remain divisive. This differs from other geographic ‘blocs’ that frequently cooperate on mutual interest issues. Tensions in South Asia are shaped by complex domestic, bilateral, intra-regional and international geopolitical factors, despite the region’s obvious geographic, economic and cultural interdependence. A key lesson from the current pandemic is that countries need to share lessons and actively coordinate, complement and supplement each other’s public health responses, especially between neighbours.
Read the Editorial published in BMJ Global Health with Dr Soumyadeep and his colleagues which presents a pragmatic ‘Stronger Together’ agenda on critical areas of concern for political, social, medical and public health leaders in South Asia to consider and build on here (open access)
About a decade earlier we brought to attention that the lack of access to health information is ‘a social injustice that the global health community cannot afford to ignore’. We argued that governments are morally and legally obliged to ensure access to health information. In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen significant investments from multinational agencies, governments, non-profits and private actors to disseminate health information. However, a narrow focus on providing access to health information alone, without any investment or thought on how information can be translated by people to meaningful health outcomes, is proving to be counterproductive.
Read the Editorial by Dr Soumyadeep Bhaumik and Dr Pranab Chatterjee in BMJ Global Health (Open access)
India is breaking records of COVID-19 positive cases across the world. Daily cases in the country have hit a new high of over three lakhs. In West Bengal too, one in every three people in West Bengal is testing positive. For the past few days, there have been calls on social media pleading for beds in Kolkata. The election climate though seems apathetic to the pandemic.
In a podcast with Suno India, India’s leading podcast platform, Dr Soumyadeep Bhaumik discusses with Ms Suryatapa Mukherjee talks about :
how lack of national #lockdown is killing the poor – no equity
need to focus on prevention & think beyond biomedical lens- not just vaccines
The COVID-19 outbreak that originated in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019 now affects 213 countries or territories across the globe. Better health workforce utilisation and support are key pillars to enhance health systems capacity. Community health workers (CHWs) constitute a significant proportion of frontline health workforce in many countries and play an important role in control and prevention of pandemics like COVID-19.
A rapid evidence synthesis was conducted to understand what role CHWs can play in pandemics. The study found that in previous pandemics, CHWs have played several roles including for generating community awareness countering stigma and contact tracing. CHW engagement in contact tracing might hamper routine primary service delivery. Policies, guidance and training for these had to be developed. Disruption in supply chain, logistics and supportive supervision for CHWs have been common in pandemic scenarios. CHWs have been at increased risk for contracting disease. In the course of pandemics, CHWs have experienced stigmatisation, isolation and socially ostracisation. Improved remuneration, additional incentives, public recognition countering societal stigma, provision of psychosocial support and personal protective equipment were reported to be enablers. There is not much evidence about initialisation of new CHW programmes during pandemics. Considering the complexity of barriers faced even in contexts with well-integrated programmes, ambitious programmes need to be considered with caution.
Read the full study in BMJ Global Health here (open access)