Rethinking public health campaigns in the COVID-19 era: a call to improve effectiveness, equity and impact

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The members of the HCE Leadership Team wrote this commentary to highlight opportunities to re-think health campaigns in the wake of COVID-19. The piece was published in BMJ Global Health.

Summary box

  • Health campaigns are time-bound, intermittent activities that address specific epidemiological challenges, expediently fill delivery gaps or provide surge coverage for health interventions.

  • They can be used to prevent or respond to disease outbreaks, control or eliminate targeted diseases as a public health problem, eradicate a disease altogether or achieve other health goals.

  • In 2020, more than 530 health campaigns were planned for 26 different interventions representing 13 diseases and 105 countries.

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by the end of last year, about half of planned campaigns were postponed, cancelled, or suspended leaving hundreds of millions of children and families at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, tropical diseases and malnutrition.

  • So far in 2021, more than 280 campaigns have been cancelled or delayed.

  • As health campaigns restart and catch up on the delivery of missed drugs, vaccines and nutritional supplements, and countries roll out COVID-19 vaccines, there is an opportunity to rethink the way we plan and implement campaigns to improve their effectiveness and impact.