Emphasis on better protection and capacity building for health professionals may well become more prominent in the emergency medicine and disaster risk reduction (DRR) communities, particularly in the context of preparing for the next pandemic and climate change response.
WHPA is supporting evidence-based advocacy for health professionals in the emergency medicine community via its report “What the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed: the findings of five global health workforce professions”, published in March 2023 in the WHO’s Human Resources for Health Observer Series. Key messages from the report were delivered to an expert audience of health practitioners for emergencies, managers, leaders at subnational and national levels, government, communications and academics at the WADEM two-yearly Congress, held in 2023 in Killarney, Ireland on 9-12 May. WADEM is the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine.
Erin Downey, lead author of the WHPA-WHO report and Visiting Scientist at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, was one of around 1500 delegates at the Congress who came from over 100 countries. She was invited to speak on three occasions during the meeting:
- Speaker: Session on Infectious Disease Prevention and Practices; she focused on the impact of access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) measures on health professionals, as evidenced in the WHPA report.
- Session Chair: Session on Psychosocial and Mental Health; opening the session, she spoke for 25 minutes on the WHPA evidence of fear, violence and burnout experienced by health professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).
- Session Innovator: Session on Primary Care and Population Health Problems & Healthcare; she underscored that not just patients but also health professionals experience, anger, fear, and exhaustion while they are providing care, pointing to the WHPA-WHO report for evidence and the need for a whole of society approach to health care.
As a result of Erin’s interventions, an abstract of the WHPA-WHO report will be published in the proceedings of the Congress, which will appear in WADEM’s peer-reviewed journal “Prehospital and Disaster Medicine”. This will bring the report and the WHPA directly to the attention of WADEM members, to whom the journal is sent by email, as well as to the journal’s overall readership.