COVID-19, Health Partnerships and WhatsApp

By Evelyn Brealey, Director, CGHP

In this blog, Evelyn explores the communication app WhatsApp and the role it has to play in health partnerships. Her blog highlights the value of such communication tools, and the profound displays of humility and solidarity which she has seen during the pandemic.

During the past 13 weeks, there has been much to think about. I keep trying to distill some of my thoughts which, I will admit, I’ve not been very good at.  When I start, my mind rambles off on all sorts of tangents, as it has done numerous times as I’ve tried to write this blog! I have managed though, to distill one thought that I intend to explore in this blog.

At CGHP, we have for the past few years used WhatsApp groups to enable good communication between project team members and the CGHP programme team, particularly when teams are undertaking international visits both outbound from UK and inbound to Cambridge. We have also set up groups consisting of the project leads and teams, on both sides of our partnerships and have found these enable quick and effective communication. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have come to rely even more on these WhatsApp groups for project-related matters, but it is the content of these conversations which possess such value during such strange and difficult times.

What I’ve seen displayed is incredible team spirit and camaraderie, good humour, great leadership, and wonderful kindness and empathy, which transcends hierarchies and international borders. Yes, there has been value in the WhatsApp conversations relating to project activity , but the real value has been the mutual support and ties of professional friendship that have not only endured, but strengthened.

Many of the personal and professional attributes that have enabled these quality conversations, are fundamental to good practice in health partnerships. The shared experiences of the members of the groups who have engaged in global health partnership activity both pre-Covid-19 and now, are the very experiences that provide rich and fertile ground for the development of such qualities.

It has been a privilege to be part of these conversations and to witness such profound displays of humanity and global solidarity. When I look back on this time, I feel sure that among my memories will be these WhatsApp groups and the strength and optimism that I’ve gained from being a member. In the months to come, I look forward to talking more to our members and partners and asking if, despite the very different situations we have all found ourselves in, whether they too have reaped the same benefits as I have.