Impact of COVID-19 on global health priorities

Nearly half of countries around the world are experiencing disruptions to critical primary care services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, threatening the significant gains in health and human progress made since the turn of the millennium.

Addressing ongoing global health challenges and providing people with essential services – while responding to and recovering from the pandemic – will require strong and resilient health systems, especially at the primary health care level, that can address people’s diverse health needs at every stage of life.

We’ve assembled recent reports of the ripple effect of COVID-19 on those health needs typically met through primary health care systems. 

Family Planning

In the year 2020, an estimated 12 million women were unable to access family planning services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially leading to as many as 1.4 million unintended pregnancies before women were able to resume use of family planning services. 


HIV testing fell by an estimated 41% in 2020, preventing people from knowing their HIV status and getting connected to the care they need.

Maternal and Child Health

Since March 2020, access to life-saving health interventions for women, children and adolescents in 36 of the world’s poorest countries has dropped by as much as 25 percent, amounting to 4 million women losing access to care during childbirth and 17 million children missing out on vaccinations.


In surveyed facilities in seven countries across Asia, malaria diagnoses fell 56%, and malaria treatment services plummeted by 59% in 2020 relative to 2019. Interruptions in malaria diagnosis and treatment can have significant consequences for children in particular, as the vast majority of malaria deaths occur in children under 5.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Approximately half of countries reported one or more disruptions to essential NCD services in early 2021, with significant disruptions to mental health care – even as mental health needs increased during the pandemic.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

On average, 44% of countries were experiencing disruptions to NTD care, treatment and education in early 2021, disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations in high-burden countries.


Although vaccination campaigns for polio have now largely resumed after pausing in 2020, the pandemic’s impact is still being felt as outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived polio (cVDPVs) are still increasing, especially in African countries. 


An estimated 1.4 million fewer people received care for tuberculosis (TB) in 2020 than in 2019 – a reduction of 21%. Testing declined dramatically as well. This drop brings the number of people diagnosed and treated in those countries down to levels last seen in 2008.