The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging health systems across the world. Rapidly increasing demand for care of people with COVID-19 is compounded by fear, misinformation and limitations on the movement of people and supplies that disrupt the delivery of frontline health care for all people.
When health systems are overwhelmed and people fail to access needed services, both direct mortality and indirect mortality from preventable and treatable conditions increase. Decision-makers will need to make difficult choices to ensure that COVID-19 and other urgent, ongoing public health problems are addressed while minimizing risks to health workers and communities. As established at the 2018 Astana Global Conference on Primary Health Care, the community level is an integral platform for primary health care, key to the delivery of services and essential public health functions, and to the engagement and empowerment of communities in relation to their health.
This community-based platform, with its distinct capacities for health care delivery and social engagement, has a critical role to play in the response to COVID-19 and is essential to meeting people’s ongoing health needs, especially those of the most vulnerable.