Social and Health Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Context:  Lessons learnt from Covid19 and measures to counter its impact.

What is the Social and Health Impact of the Pandemic?

  • Wasting: A recent modelling study showed that, the prevalence of wasting in children can increase by 10% to 50% due to the reduction in coverage of essential services.
  • Maternal death: There can be 60% increase in maternal deaths due to the non-availability of interventions like the administration of uterotonics and antibiotics, and clean birth environments.
  • Nutrition: With a huge number of children depend on school meals the pandemic has adversely affected access to nutritious food.
  • Increase in Domestic Violence: In India, a third of women reported that they had experienced domestic violence but less than 1% sought help from the police.
  • Women: Work and livelihood of women is much affected than men as more women work in informal economy than men. It has resulted in decreased income by over 60%, thereby pushing a greater number of women into extreme poverty.
  • Disruption of services: Important services such diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases, cancer diagnosis and treatment, TB case detection etc have been disrupted.

What needs to be done?

  • The package of essential services: Governments should provide essential services that include response to violence against women.
  • Gender analysis and gender-responsive public health policies: We need to work on the availability of data that is disaggregated by sex and age.
  • Ensure financial protection: Out-of-pocket expenditure forces 100 million people to fall into extreme poverty every year. A health coverage scheme, like Ayushman Bharat, or through private health insurance can ensure financial stability.
  • Emphasis on digital technology: using digital platforms to provide telemedicine for example, government’s e-Sanjeevani platform or to train healthcare workers for example
  • Move towards electronic and portable health records. We need to invest in new ways of collecting, using and sharing data, enabling local, contextualised decision-making.
  • Ensure access to Nutrition: we need to further integrate social protection systems, food systems and health systems to have an impact on nutrition.
  • Effective infodemic management: Since, it is linked to people’s beliefs and behaviour we need a dedicated behavioural insights group to provide advice on behaviour change.
  • Empowering our frontline health workers: We need to invest in them to ensure that they have the tools they need, receive regular training and mentoring, and are well paid.
  • Improving health literacy: The fear, stigma and discrimination circulated on social media can be countered by health literacy.
  • Investment: We need to invest in strong institutional mechanisms and capacities in our regulatory bodies, research centres and public health institutions.

A health system is not only about the supply side. It should actively involve citizens and the people in developing the services that we are bringing to them. For this, we need investment in human resources and to engage and empower communities.

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