In our last episode, we looked at ways to support local communities in San Francisco during the pandemic. Today, we’re setting our sights even higher to understand how the WHO and UN Foundation are supporting us during the coronavirus. This organization is responsible for fundraising campaigns that support essential causes, so naturally, all hands are on deck to stop COVID-19.
On April 8th, Alex spoke with Rachel Bridges, Global Health Communications Manager at the UN Foundation, to discuss ways the World Health Organization is supporting the public and frontline medical professionals during this unprecedented crisis.
You can listen to our entire conversation above, but here are a few highlights:
The World Health Organization is fighting an “infodemic”
One of our biggest challenges during COVID-19 is simply finding reliable information. Who is at risk? How does it spread? How long will people need to quarantine for? This is particularly difficult because misinformation is rampant, and the experts are still learning the details themselves.
“We’re in the midst of what WHO has called an ‘infodemic,’” Rachel said. “Given our rapid news cycle and the access to information that people can readily have … people are inundated. And like you said, news is rapidly changing.
“I think it’s important to call people’s attention to the fact that this was an unknown disease as of three months ago, and look at how quickly it’s moved in just that span of time. And so, information and guidance is rapidly changing as we learn more and more about what this is. But I think it’s really important to be able to know what the trusted sources are out there for accurate information.”
On that front, thankfully, the World Health Organization is making progress. Its official website includes a broad range of Mythbusters-themed guidance that answers common questions and addresses misinformation. “There’s also a . There are symptom checkers,” Rachel continued. “There’s a whole bunch of really, really reliable evidence-based resources on their website that they want to get out to the public.”
Following safety measures helps communities (and the economy) recover quickly
In the United States, protecting ourselves from COVID-19 feels like being trapped between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we need to follow crucial safety measures, but on the other, that devastates jobs and economies. While Rachel acknowledges this dilemma, she also notes that following safety measures ensures we can return to normalcy faster.
“At the end of the day, the World Health Organization, the UN, and other players like the World Bank, really are valuing and putting at the utmost priority on people’s safety,” Rachel explains. “And while we understand that lockdowns and measures like that seem very extreme … they are necessary in order to be able to save lives.
“It’s really, really important that even though it’s really hard for folks to do — and we are seeing these economic impacts — if we’re going to be able to quickly recover … we need everyone to adhere to these public health measures, which are the only tools right now that we have to combat this virus.”
COVID-19 teaches us to invest in health and show kindness
While this pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge, there are still many lessons we can learn from it. Of these, two stand out for Rachel: the need to invest in health preparedness, and the need to be kind.
“I think as a society, we’ve definitely learned that we need to invest in health systems,” Rachel said. “We’ve been calling for quite some time in the public health space for [governments] to be investing in health system strengthening … Because as I mentioned earlier, diseases don’t have passports. And we can’t stop a disease from entering borders through a wall, or any other kind of physical barrier. So what happens locally impacts everybody globally.”
On an individual level, perhaps the most important thing people can do outside of protection procedures is to remain kind to one another. “When people are scared and stressed and working from home, taking care of kids, trying to multitask, it’s really difficult to try and remember that we’re all in this community together,” Rachel continued. “But that’s the only way that we’re going to get through this. My health and wellbeing [depend] on you staying home, and … respect for the community to not hoard products, for example.
“So I think we’re trying to reinforce the message that, yes, this is a really scary time, and it’s unprecedented. But it’s important for folks to be able to look out for one another because that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to get through this.”
Rachel hopes you will directly support frontline research and treatment by donating to the COVID-19 Response Fund.
We want to thank Rachel for taking the time to speak with us! Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
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