Respect & Recognition

At the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation, we recognize that frontline health workers are the heart of strong community and primary care systems. When the world shifted its attention to health workers amidst COVID-19, the Center was already working with partners around the globe to strengthen community-based health systems by supporting frontline health workers to achieve health for all by 2030.
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Women form 70% of the global health workforce fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet women's expertise and perspectives are woefully underrepresented in decision-making spaces including on national task forces and WHO’s COVID-19 emergency response committee. To foster dialogue on how gender inequity is impacting the global response to COVID-19, Johnson & Johnson Foundation partnered with Women in Global Health (WGH) last year on a digital COVID 50/50 Action Labs series. Each Action Lab, produced in collaboration with the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation, addressed one of the WGH Five Asks through interactive panel discussions showcasing the voices of those central to the response to COVID-19 and were designed to drive local advocacy.
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Frontline health workers, including nurses, midwives and community health workers (CHWs), are vital for effective, strong primary healthcare systems that deliver for everyone, everywhere. These cadres of health workers are the first, and in some cases often the only, point of contact with the health system for millions of people. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, nurses stepped up to lead not only at testing sites but in critical care of very ill patients, and community health workers played key roles in contact tracing and testing in many countries around the world.
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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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Amidst headlines of fear and frustration, COVID-19 has also surfaced profiles of health workers demonstrating great courage, a value that we at the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation believe is an integral trait of frontline leadership. Millions around the world are newly aware of how we rely on health workers' trusted counsel and life-saving care. At the Center, we are intent on strengthening the leadership skills of nurses, midwives and community health workers so patients’ and communities’ best allies are empowered with the tools needed to strengthen health systems.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted front line health workers into the limelight. Across the globe, healthcare leaders, advocates and the general public are joining in well-deserved outpourings of gratitude from balconies to social media. While this appreciation for all of those at the front lines of care is welcome and important, the attention received by community health workers in particular may help ensure more stakeholders throughout health systems understand this cadre’s vital role in ensuring access to quality, community-based primary health care.
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