Workshop 6: Innovations emerging from the COVID-19 crisis

The field of SRHR has seen the emergence of some impressively innovative practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that are successfully maintaining SRH services and protecting the SRHR of millions of people around the world. This workshop looked at the innovations emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and examined barriers that may be preventing the implementation of such innovative solutions. Delegates also discussed how the emerging innovations might influence the development of programs to foster SRHR after the pandemic.

  • The morning workshop was hosted by Jacques van Zuydam, Chief Direction, National Population Unit, Department for Social Development, South Africa.
  • María Antonieta Alcalde Castro, Director at Ipas for Central America and Mexico, hosted the afternoon workshop.

Main Challenges:

  • Data security and regulations: many possibilities exist for innovation, yet data protection measures within the digital health and social protection field must be improved.
  • Digital divide: innovative online tools and messaging often do not reach marginalized individuals or groups.
  • Lack of support for taking responsibility: self-care means taking personal responsibility for yourself, but this is a challenge or not possible for many people without sufficient preparation and support, especially during times of crisis.

Opportunities and solutions:

  • Innovation channels information: provided that data security is guaranteed, digital tools and social media, when accessible, are a promising way of passing on information, counselling and advice, and encouraging self-care.
  • Innovation, not high tech: innovative practices do not need to be based on high-level technologies. They can simply be innovative ways of working and using existing tools.
  • Do not discard tested methods: tried and tested practices proven to reach marginalized populations should not necessarily be replaced by new ways of working.
  • Adaptation of regulations: the health crisis has fostered a growing and necessary adaptation of regulations e.g. relating to the use of digital tools for health service delivery.
  • Innovations relevant during and after pandemic: COVID-19 has demonstrated the potential of using telemedicine and other alternative methods of delivering information, advice and services in the long-term.
  • Demand-side interventions: interventions that increase the use of health services through financial incentives (cash transfers, vouchers etc.) are an effective way of providing public financing to the self-care space.
  • Use of population data: this can be used to inform a targeted response to the pandemic e.g. information on age structures can estimate possible health impacts.