COVID-19 is a public health threat. Below are the urgent health needs and how you can help.
Support those on the front lines. Frontline workers include health care providers, first responders, truck drivers, and essential workers in transit, retail, pharmacy, farms, deliveries, warehouses, and manufacturing. Everyone’s health depends on the ability of these people to do their jobs well and safely.
You can help by:
- Practicing social distancing, handwashing, and wearing cloth masks when in public, to reduce their risk of infection. You can also support nonprofits like WaterAid and Plan International, which deploy handwashing and hygiene expertise around the world.
- Providing PPE (personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators, isolation gowns, eye protection, and face shields). A select few of you may have access to global supply chains, direct donation networks, or funds to provide at scale, like the recent donation of 2.6 million masks, 170,000 goggles and 2000 ventilators to New York — the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Others can support nonprofits like International Medical Corps that is working closely with Federally Qualified Health Centers in the U.S., leveraging its global supply chain expertise.
Strengthen the medical response system. In addition to PPE, hospitals and policymakers need more better information and trained personnel, including a shortage of 5.9 million nurses worldwide. The case fatality rate of coronavirus infections varies widely, from 1.9% (Germany) to 11% (Italy). The different outcomes are related to three major reasons: 1) population age, 2) population that has chronic or other endemic illnesses, 3) a sudden jump in the number of severe cases strains the healthcare system so much that fewer lives can be saved. In the U.S., New Orleans, Chicago, and Albany, GA, have experienced that strain, and more is expected in both rural and urban areas in the U.S. and abroad, including countries like India where social distancing is not possible.
Philanthropy can help by providing surge response to hard-hit areas and supporting medical services in under-resourced communities. The following nonprofits are all working to provide “surge capacity” in the hardest-hit regions around the world, including North America and Europe: Partners in Health, Build Health International, International Medical Corps, Last Mile Health, and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. For example, Partners in Health is now working with the state of Massachusetts to deploy 1,000 contact tracers to help track and contain the virus in that state.
Expand resources to address behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorders). High quality information and services help those who were already vulnerable, as well as those made newly vulnerable due to the isolation and distress caused by social distancing, sudden sickness and death of loved ones, financial insecurity, and working on the frontlines to address COVID-19.
You can help by:
- Funding crisis-response lines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which provides free and confidential emotional support and guidance by phone, and Crisis Text Line which provides free, confidential crisis intervention via SMS/text messaging. Both operate 24/7/365.
- Expanding telehealth through the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Relief Fund which supports non-profit providers to interact with individuals remotely and, when needed, in-person. Examples of effective nonprofits transitioning programs to cope with social distancing include Fountain House, a NY-based nonprofit for individuals with serious mental illness; Child Mind Institute which supports children with mental health and learning disorders; The Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Lab (Washington) and The Center for Harm Reduction Therapy (San Francisco, Oakland) providing guidance and services for those living with substance use disorders.
For more on the nonprofits we mention, see Nonprofits to Give To (Examples & Sources).