There are underlying gender inequalities within the health system whereby limited resources and opportunities are available for the female frontline health workers, which extends to their use of ICT platforms in health emergencies, says the author.
Sneha Krishnan, Associate Professor, Jindal School of Environment and Sustainability, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.
Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction emphasises building local capacities for disaster risk management. This article asks: What role did female frontline health workers (FFHWs) play in preparing, responding and managing health emergencies in India and how did information and communications technology (ICT) platforms hinder or facilitate their capacities?
FFHWs’ experiences in providing subnational and local health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in six states in India – Odisha, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala and Maharashtra – was collected using semi-structured interviews. Data were thematically analysed, and studied within the government policies and guidelines to tackle the emerging concerns in COVID-19.
FFHWs were involved in planning, responding and managing COVID-19 cases, providing awareness and undertaking surveillance within their regions. Moreover, they were also responsible to continue with essential health and nutrition service delivery to pregnant women and young infants.
They relied on various information and communications technology (ICT) platforms in managing their tasks despite facing several challenges. Besides receiving training from hospitals and health officials, FFHWs received information on COVID-19 and prevention through different channels and modes: majority of them reported TV channels, news coverage, and videos sent on Whatsapp groups.
There are underlying gender inequalities within the health system whereby limited resources and opportunities are available for the FFHWs, which extends to their use of ICT platforms in health emergencies.
Using ICT in an equitable and just manner provides an opportunity to support local action for health resilience swiftly and promptly by building capacities and increasing representation of the frontline workers. This understanding can be further grounded around issues of equity, participation, representation in a gender-responsive health system.
Published in: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
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