Voices from the Movement: Mark Brender on the Need for Community Health Workers in Canada - Samuel Centre For Social Connectedness — Samuel Centre For Social Connectedness
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Voices from the Movement: Mark Brender on the Need for Community Health Workers in Canada

mark-brender
Articles
April 22, 2020

Mark Brender is the National Director of Partners In Health (PIH) Canada. Mark led the establishment of PIH Canada in 2011 to strengthen the work of PIH globally and add PIH’s voice to the Canadian movement for health as a human right.

PIH has been a core partner in research, programming and advocacy regarding public health since SCSC’s inception. We have collaborated to research and raise greater awareness on social support systems, as well as the importance of community-led health interventions. Our partnership is grounded in the belief that social connectedness should be at the heart of all health interventions, and that we must work with, not for the community to derive solutions to health issues. 

We are honoured to share Mark’s op-ed for The Globe and Mail, where he makes the case that COVID-19 has exposed the need for a public-health system that more strongly integrates community-level responsiveness with the needs of vulnerable populations. PIH’s success in implementing a paid community health worker model around the world — from Haiti to Lesotho to Peru — demonstrates the benefits of such a model in Canada as part of everyday community-level health services, as well as in times of crisis. 

To fight the spread of COVID-19, the federal government has been recruiting volunteers to help public-health agencies trace the contacts of people who have tested positive for the virus. This turn to volunteers might suggest that reaching out to potentially infected persons is of secondary importance to the hospital-based heroics of professional pandemic-fighting, but nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, it highlights an important reality: Canada needs to invest in community health workers (CHWs). They are essential in our health care system – in times of pandemics and not – and they should be paid.

In the absence of a vaccine, the treatment of the novel coronavirus is reactive, not pro-active. But contact tracing actually prevents disease. The virus has exposed the need for a public-health system that more strongly integrates community-level responsiveness with the needs of vulnerable populations as part of its daily practice, as well as in times of crisis. This is where CHWs could play an important role.

Read more at The Globe and Mail.