The Global Politics of Health Worker Protests: Current Trends and Future Research Directions

Nov 8, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Veena Sriram

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary levels of pressure on health workers at the frontlines of the crisis. Health workers have faced myriad challenges, including high workloads, resource constraints, evolving treatment guidelines, the lack of personal and workplace protections, burnout, violence directed towards them or working in fragile contexts. Throughout the pandemic, health workers around the world have been vocal about their frustrations at the inadequate resourcing and underlying conditions that negatively impact their ability to do their job. These concerns have been expressed through a variety of platforms - such as news coverage and social media - but one of the most powerful tools has been the use of protests. Despite the ubiquity of health worker protests globally during the pandemic, very little analysis has been conducted on their scale and distribution in this critical time period. The underlying drivers of these protests have implications not only for COVID-19 and future health emergencies, but health service delivery and access to care more broadly. In this presentation, I will share early findings from a collaborative research project (UBC, Columbia University and American University) that analyzed nearly 7000 health worker protest events between March 2020 and March 2021. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of potential research directions on the topic of global health worker protests.