News & Insights

Health workers take on so much—they are tireless caregivers, advocates and confidants, often undertaking a considerable amount of emotional pressure in their jobs. This couldn’t be truer during the pandemic, and health workers around the world are feeling the strain. A recent study shows that more than 33% of nurses stated their mental health as bad or very bad, underscoring the concern that the current pandemic will lead to an increase of stress and job burnout among health care workers.
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In over half the countries in the world including Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, there is only one psychiatrist per 100,000 people. In Asia Pacific, mental illness is the second largest contributor to years lost due to disability. Additionally, less than half of those affected receive any medical treatment, and in China and India, it is less than a tenth. Even when treatment is accessible, it is often insufficient.
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Frontline health workers usually have higher than normal levels of stress while providing healthcare in communities. They are facing tremendous stress now in providing care and services, sometimes managing acute cases, through the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF has committed to addressing the mental health and psychosocial needs of frontline health workers across all of their work.
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At the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation, we believe that sustainable improvements in the delivery of and access to quality primary care require a long-term commitment to enabling and supporting the well-being of the deliverer of care—the frontline health worker.
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During last year’s United Nations General Assembly, we introduced the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation to our partners and global health peers, who share our commitment of resources and resolve to support the health workforce. In light of the 18 million health worker shortage projected for 2030, our discussion touched on setting targets; meeting the needs of health workers today, not just tomorrow; the importance of leadership opportunities; and achieving greater recognition for all health worker cadres. The room felt united in appreciation that the hope of universal health coverage – which starts with strong community-based primary health care – is not possible without an equipped and empowered health workforce.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has cast new light on the essential and selfless role health workers play in providing care that has saved lives and reduced suffering. Yet it has equally revealed the challenges in maintaining well-functioning health systems as well as exacerbated the deep inequities and gaps in access to healthcare for those most vulnerable that we always knew existed, but as a society have failed to address.
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To say that 2020 has been a challenging year would be the understatement of the century. So much has changed for the world community since COVID-19, and countless governments, non-governmental organizations and companies are bringing their unique capabilities and resources to bear in profound ways.
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As COVID-19 spread across the globe, we at the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation began strategizing how to support frontline health workers in low- and mid-income settings. One early result was the formation of a new collective partnership with funding from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation among three of our partners, The World Continuing Education Alliance (WCEA), The Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery East Africa (AKU) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Together, we set out to design a mechanism to deliver vital training and education opportunities to frontline health workers managing dual imperatives: to prevent and treat COVID-19 while also providing primary health care amidst a potentially devastating interruption of health services, particularly in already fragile health systems.
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