Empowering India’s Frontline Health Workers with COVID-19 Prevention Messages

Many health facilities have been converted into dedicated COVID-19 centers, which means fewer facilities for services such as family planning. Getting messages out to vulnerable populations, such as the urban poor, as to where they can seek family planning services is crucial. Also crucial is protecting frontline health workers that deliver those messages.

The Challenge Initiative for Healthy Cities (TCIHC) in India has supported the Government of India (GOI) in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Odisha by developing self-care messages for its frontline health workers, including urban Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and their supervisors, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs).

TCIHC adapted existing GOI information, education and communication materials related to COVID-19 with content specifically for ASHAs and ANMs that integrates family planning messages. The materials instruct ASHAs to take appropriate precautions during field work while reinforcing their important role in helping women avert unwanted pregnancies. Given the lockdown restrictions, TCIHC facilitated this adaptation and finalization of the materials with the GOI through existing WhatsApp Groups.

Once finalized, state officials shared the materials – which were developed in Hindi and customized for all three states – via existing WhatsApp groups of the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) with urban primary health centers (UPHCs), ASHAs and ANMs.

Given that ASHAs see many clients who prefer birth spacing methods, TCIHC also incorporated messages that encouraged them to replenish and carry their stock of condoms and pills during household visits. TCIHC city teams also coached ASHAs to do telephone follow-up with IUCD clients and help injectable clients get their next dose from a nearby facility. In addition, TCIHC has developed an e-learning module for ASHAs that guides and mentors them on family planning counseling that was tested during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The insights gained were incorporated into the module, which will be rolled out across all TCIHC-supported cities in May.

More than 3,500 state and city government officials and 11,000 ASHAs and ANMs in UP, MP and Odisha (6,190 in TCIHC-supported cities) have been reached with these critical messages to ensure continuity of family planning services during the pandemic. TCIHC continues to regularly provide technical assistance and coaching to its government counterparts and frontline health workers remotely through WhatsApp

Each day, our team works tirelessly to add colors in the struggling lives of millions in need. With a steady resolve to bring quality life on the doorsteps of those who cannot afford it, we work on ground, sowing the seeds of opportunities in the homes of millions and ensuring that they grow and sustain into plants of peace and happiness and success stories.

You are the reason we continue and will continue to make a visible difference in the lives of many. Because you make us believe that helping hands are and always will be better than praying lips.

C-445, Chittaranjan Park

New Delhi-110019