World is failing in ‘our duty of care’ to protect the mental health and wellbeing of health and care workers, says report on impact of COVID-19

Doha – A new report by the Qatar Foundation, World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), reveals that at least a quarter of health workers and of care respondents reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout. Our Duty of Care: A Global Call to Action to Protect the Mental Health of Health and Care Workers examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of health and care workers and offers 10 policy actions as a framework to follow immediately – by employers, organizations and policy makers.

The report found that 23-46% of health and care workers reported symptoms of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic and 20-37% experienced symptoms of depression.

Burnout of health and care workers during the pandemic ranged from 41-52% according to pooled estimates. Women, young people and parents of dependent children have been found to be at greater risk of psychological distress, which is significant considering that women make up 67% of the global health workforce and are subject to inequalities in the sector, such as unequal wages. The higher risk of negative mental health outcomes among young health workers is also of concern.

“Well into the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, this report confirms that levels of anxiety, stress and depression among health and care workers have become a ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ “, said Jim Campbell, director of the WHO’s health workforce. .

This report follows historic decisions by the World Health Assembly and the International Labor Conference in 2022 that reaffirmed the obligations of governments and employers to protect the workforce, guarantee their rights and provide them with decent work in a safe and conducive practice environment that safeguards their mental health. and well-being. Protecting and safeguarding this workforce is also an investment in the continuity of essential public health services to progress towards universal health coverage and global health security.

“The increased pressure experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly had a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of health and care workers,” said Sultana Afdhal, Chief Executive Officer of WISH. “The pressure is not new, but COVID-19 has highlighted the need for better care for those who care for us. This new report sets out policy actions that promote stronger health systems and calls for global collaboration between governments and health sector employers to invest in safeguarding the most valuable asset our health systems possess , namely the people who work there.

The report highlights 10 policy actions as a framework for immediate adoption, such as investing in work environments and culture that prevent burnout, promote staff wellbeing and support quality care. This includes the obligations and roles of governments and employers in occupational safety and health.

The WHO has recently published recommendations on effective interventions and approaches to support mental health at work, including those specifically aimed at health and care workers, which call for changes at the organizational level that address working conditions and ensure confidential mental health care and support as a priority. Related to this framework, the WHO Global Compact for Health and Care Workers provides technical guidance on how to protect health and care workers and safeguard their rights; he stresses that due diligence is a shared responsibility in each country.

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World is failing in ‘our duty of care’ to protect the mental health and wellbeing of health and care workers, says report on impact of COVID-19

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