On Saturday, March 6th, the Guardian published an opinion piece on coronavirus by former WHO Director of Maternal and Child Health, Anthony Costello. In it, Costello argues that the UK’s failure to adopt a community healthcare model against coronavirus akin to those used in Asian countries, including China and South Korea, is one of the key reasons our response has been so ineffective. He points out that the government’s dismantling of the UK’s public health infrastructure through huge cuts in funding over the past 8 years, and their insistence on adopting a centralized, government-led response to the pandemic, slowed down efforts to track and trace the virus and saw cases in the UK quickly spiral out of control. By utilising the 750,000 volunteers who signed up to support the NHS in just 2 days, the government could instead have setup a network of local community health workers, who would take calls, track cases and collect data in their local area.
The startling results from our own Bhopal’s Community Shield Campaign, the community-led healthcare model adopted by Bhopal survivors, appears to support Costello’s argument. Despite their lack of funds, infrastructure, and access to professional grade PPE, Sambhavna’s community health team were able to build and utilise a network of community health volunteers to astonishing effect during the pandemic. Working in gas-effected neighbourhoods whose residents are perhaps the most vulnerable on earth to Covid-19, our community health workers were nonetheless able to keep both cases and deaths well below those elsewhere in the city. A large part of their success can be attributed to the community-led nature of the model. Rather than receiving advice and support from a government that had no effective infrastructure for delivering it, people were able to turn instead to others in their own communities – their friends and neighbours – for help. The last year has showed, more than ever, that there is a lot we can learn from our friends in Bhopal. If you would like to learn more about the Bhopal’s Community Shield Campaign, you can download a free pdf of our ‘From Bhopal with Love’ booklet, containing all the details, below:
If you would like to read Anthony Costello’s Guardian article, you can do so here