Combating Coronavirus and Future Pandemics in Underserved Communities

The Coronavirus pandemic has placed the world at a crossroads. Its consequences are vast and often severe in every community around the world. However, the effect is not the same everywhere, and the response has to target each reality. Rural and resource-scarce communities are facing different challenges than urban settings. As the world looks for solutions, it is important to look at these communities in a different lens. This will help these communities combat and mitigate this and any future outbreak.

The main challenge faced by developing communities is preparedness. Local healthcare providers and hospitals are underprepared to serve large influxes of people. These providers have limited capacity and resources throughout the year.  In the case of a pandemic, these providers will also lack the proper access to key resources such as testing and equipment. Rural communities often rely on air travel and slow transportation for its medical supply chain.  Thus, the slow down of transportation and higher demand of products places a greater stress.

Community members also face challenges. Proximity to a healthcare provider and access to affordable diagnosis is a critical issue. Many of these trends already impacting communities will add a greater strain on the healthcare system during a pandemic. The short supply of specialized healthcare personnel will further hinder the possibility of response. In developing communities, primary healthcare is the challenge they face year round. Governments and NGOs main focus is to work towards fulfilling basic healthcare within the communities. To combat the Coronavirus outbreak, a continuation of education on proper hygiene, water sanitation, and hand washing is necessary. Even, developed nations needed this reminder as they have moved into more advanced forms of healthcare. Right now we can all follow the guidelines to wear masks and protection, and to remain at home or socially distant. No matter the community, it is crucial for everyone to work together to combat the pandemic.

“Members of vulnerable communities must be part of creating proactive solutions. Developing and developed nations will experience a resurgence in primary healthcare as part of the response to current and future pandemics.” - Dr. Jose Mosquera, PASS Public Health Expert

Although the future remains uncertain, there are four key takeaways we can focus on to improve pandemic preparedness.

1. Rural and resource-scarce communities must focus on primary health care. Community health education programs can slow down and control the spread of diseases. Additional, primary health care services should be strengthened. This includes building the capacity in hospitals and local health centers for pandemics. It includes providing provisional isolation units or tents to process patients at risk.

2. This leads us to the second takeaway: local and international volunteers. Volunteers help support health education in primary healthcare. Local volunteers are able to relate back to their communities in effective ways and maintain key public health messaging.

3. Governments, international and national NGOs need to build the logistical framework and structures to respond to pandemic outbreaks. During economic crises, educational and development funding is typically reduced or cut in the budget. Focusing on basic protocols and infrastructure will build the capacity needed to respond.

4. Last, but certainly not least, hope. Hope drives many outcomes. Hope for a better future, one safer and kinder than today, can only be realized through our efforts to make it so. Hope can be seen in resilient communities working to solve this crisis even in the hardest environments of the planet.

Photo one provided by PASS LLC. Photo two provided by The Roberto Clemente Health Clinic.

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