Over the coming weeks and months, COVID-19 is likely to affect everybody, everywhere, in some way or another. Some of those people will have access to well-resourced health systems and advanced health care. Most won't.
Around the world — and here in the United States — there are people in underserved communities who are feeling scared and alone — people who do not have access to quality education, health care, and, in many cases, even food. In this time of crisis, it's imperative we provide these communities and people with relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information about the coronavirus. They need the kind of information that so many of us have already gotten and take for granted: What are the symptoms of COVID-19? What should one do if s/he has symptoms? Who is at highest risk of infection? And how can you prevent the virus from spreading?
Quality, culturally sensitive education is critical if we hope to prevent the virus from spreading out of control, reduce the burden on our healthcare systems, and show our solidarity with those in need.
But we need to act now.
For the last several weeks, Curamericas Global and our volunteers have been on the phones alongside staff of the Guatemalan consulate in Raleigh, North Carolina, reaching out to the fifteen thousand families across the Carolinas in need of extra support during this difficult time. Many of these families do not speak English. Our volunteers are providing evidence-based information about the virus and serving as an ally and friend to those who may not know what to do if they get sick. It's something we learned firsthand through our work in Liberia during the 2014 Ebola outbreak there: prevention is the most important line of defense in keeping a bad situation from getting worse.
Globally, communities in developing countries are the least prepared and able to participate when it comes to pandemic lockdowns. In response, community health workers at our project sites in Guatemala and Kenya are making sure that all families have the supplies and education they need to get serious about prophylactic hand washing and social distancing. These same healthcare workers are providing action steps that at-risk families can take to protect themselves should a family member develop COVID symptoms. Needless to say, efforts to stay ahead of the fast-moving situation are problematic for these communities, which already struggle with underresourced healthcare systems. But by acting now, we provide them with a measure of hope.
Partnerships are key in these uncertain times. It is essential that governments, nonprofits, and health providers work together in order to maximize the impact of their efforts. At Curamericas Global, we constantly strive to partner with others to deliver measurable and sustainable improvements in the health and well-being of underserved communities. Through collaboration and the implementation of data-driven approaches and community-centered solutions, we are doing our small part to create a world free of suffering from preventable and treatable disease.
As healthcare conversations and initiatives are amplified in response to COVID-19, we encourage everyone to follow and, where appropriate, contribute to those conversations and initiatives. The emergence and spread of Sars-Cov-2 has shown us how truly interconnected we all are. Now is the time for all of us who can act to act for the greater good.
Andrew Herrera, MPH, MBA, is executive director of Curamericas Global, a nonprofit in Raleigh, North Carolina, that has worked closely with local partners to help more than a million people in impoverished communities around the globe.