Community response to COVID-19 is critical in slowing down the pandemic

    Community involvement in the prevention and management of COVID-19 is a key strategy to address the pandemic situation in the Philippines.

    This health crisis has put to the test the bayanihan spirit among Filipinos, bringing to the spotlight how our communities can work together to help the entire nation survive and slowly recover from the damaging effects of the pandemic.

    The Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians (PSPHP) acknowledges the vital role of communities in the overall COVID-19 response. The organization suggested a set of practical and people-centered guidelines for community-based management.

    The PSPHP underscores the need for a community-based public health response, given that 80% of COVID-19 patients will not require hospitalization and will need the most basic clinical care.

    Board member Jaifred Christian Lopez said the community-based management of COVID-19 involves a four-pronged approach: local preparedness and response strategy; case finding and contact tracing; establishing community isolation units; and a family-oriented approach for different levels of care.

    Local preparedness and response strategy

    Communities must always be prepared to respond to COVID-19, starting with a rapid and systematic assessment of the situation.

    The PSPHP mentioned that a proper risk assessment could guide LGUs in setting an appropriate level of response against the viral disease.

    These levels of response involve different priority actions that would then lead to effective mobilization.

    Case finding and contact tracing

    Communities can limit the risk of COVID-19 through community-mobilized and people-centric case-finding, contact tracing, and isolation.

    The PSPHP highlighted the key responsibilities of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTS) in detecting, managing, and monitoring community-level cases.

    The BHERTS are mainly responsible for active contact tracing and the malasakit (compassion) arm of the communities to identify at-risk populations and to link people to the government with social safety nets.

    Establishing community isolation units

    The PSPHP has tried to push for the Local Isolation and General Treatment Areas for COVID-19 (LIGTAs COVID) which is an ideal solution to home-based isolation to control the spread of the virus in communities.

    LIGTAs COVID, as an isolation mechanism, is seen as an essential component in the rupture of the transmission chain of COVID-19.

    The facility should have four operational considerations: space, personnel, supplies and services.

    It must also meet the requirements: function over form; community acceptability; cost-effectiveness and sustainability; and safety and security.

    Family-oriented approach for different levels of care

    The PSPHP stressed that the family could be an “enabler or disabler” in the COVID-19 response.

    It is therefore important to check the vulnerabilities and risk profile of the families in the community to prevent and manage the spread of COVID-19.

    “Each person’s actions are influenced by their home context and it impacts the COVID-19 chain of transmission,” the group said.

    It noted that families possess unique dynamics and members have specific roles to play, such as decision-makers, caregivers, and health educators.

    “Knowing these roles can help the BHERTS in assisting households (to) prevent and manage COVID-19 in the home and community setting,” the PSPHP said. “Home is the front line! A community-based approach enables the home.”

    This four-pronged approach to community-based management puts the spirit of bayanihan at the frontlines of effectively preventing the spread of COVID-19.

    This story first appeared on Philippine News Agency with minor edits.


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