Health resilience is the ability of a community to use its assets to strengthen public health and healthcare systems and to improve the community’s physical, behavioral and social health to withstand, adapt to and recover from adversity.
- Improved health-seeking behavior adopted by individuals in the pre-crisis stage goes a long way to prepare communities and help them absorb sudden shocks, then remain resilient, during a crisis period. For example, if people adopt proper sanitation and hygiene practices, communities will more likely be safe and resilient during a cholera outbreak. Immunizing children before an outbreak helps protect them against a measles or polio epidemic. And social and behavior change, along with infection prevention and control practices, can keep communities safe from contracting other communicable diseases, such as Ebola.
- The resilience of a health system refers to its ability to absorb shocks, to adapt and respond by providing needed services. Resilience is built through investment and reforms. For instance, in the case of the countries recently affected by Ebola, health system resilience would involve efforts to restore the health system to its pre-crisis status and beyond, by transforming and fundamentally improving it.
- A multidisciplinary approach to improve the overall quality of healthcare is necessary in developing health resilience. This should include engagement of specialists in mental health, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), to ensure that the key determinants of good health are addressed. For example, WASH can be a major gap in health facilities, as we found out early in our response to the Ebola outbreak.
- An efficient, holistic approach to providing services is necessary for health system resilience. Assessing gaps and addressing resource needs for quality service delivery are the keys to providing optimal healthcare during a crisis. For example, midwives can be trained, but without appropriate supplies, they can neither function optimally nor contribute effectively to creating a resilient health system.
- Health workforce competence, with the ability to identify threats early at local levels, and with the capacity at both local and national levels to take immediate and effective action, is essential in ensuring health system resilience.
Training and capacity building, through pre-service and in-service training, is a key element of health resilience. It also lies at the core of International Medical Corps’ work. For example, we have worked in some of the world’s toughest environments to strengthen reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH). In Yemen, we conducted refresher training for midwives on emergency obstetrics and newborn care (EmONC) that was in accordance with international theoretical and competency-based standards. In South Sudan, we support three midwifery and nursing schools that offer competency-based training, with more than 30 months of practical and theoretical classroom components. We also have supported midwifery training programs in remote, mountainous areas of eastern Afghanistan.
International Medical Corps South Sudan supports three nursing and midwifery schools in South Sudan. More than 300 students are currently enrolled in the three schools.
Every year 16 million births occur globally to girls between 15 and 19 years of age.
Nearly half of new HIV infections occur among adolescents.