Emergency care by lay responders in low- and middle-income countries and for underserved populations

Added November 13, 2021

Citation: Orkin AM, Venugopal J, Curran JD, et al. Emergency care with lay responders in underserved populations: a systematic review. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2021;99(7):514-528H.

Language: Abstract available in EN / ES / FR / PE / CH / RU. Full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: Northern Ontario Academic Medicine Association Innovation Fund.

What is this? Training lay providers to respond to health emergencies is a key factor for a resilient health system.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies that evaluated task shifting of emergency care to lay providers in low-resource settings and underserved populations. They did not restrict their searches by language of publication and did the search on 16 December 2019. They included 34 studies, which were from low- and middle-income countries (21 studies) and underserved populations in high-income countries (13 studies).

What was found: First aid education and task shifting to laypeople for emergency care may decrease patient morbidity and mortality and build community capacity to manage health emergencies in underserved and low-resource settings.

First aid interventions and lay emergency care might contribute to addressing priority global health challenges such as opioid poisoning, trauma and malaria.

First aid education for laypeople may have its most meaningful impact when approached as a series of targeted interventions that equip the public to respond to the health emergencies that they are likely to encounter in their everyday lives and communities.

Implications: The authors of the review stated that more work is needed to orient first aid education to deliver the greatest effects on patient and community health and to identify the modalities that are best suited to specific contexts, populations, clinical conditions and public health priorities.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of education and place of residence.


This summary was prepared by Ana Pizarro edited by Firas Khalid and finalized by Mike Clarke.

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