Health Worker Protests & Proposals

The Health Worker Protests & Proposals pilot project was an open-source initiative that started in May 2020, as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It monitored, collected, and shared media reports of health worker protests and proposals around the world—coronavirus-related and beyond. The collection of these reports helped raise awareness of accountability challenges in the health sector, highlighting the needs and proposals of health workers.


This ARC pilot learning project sought to understand the relationship between the right to health, and the rights of health workers, against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Health Worker Protests and Proposals set out to learn from the patterns that emerge when we examine an international diversity of health worker protests and proposals. Recognizing health worker voices and actions sheds light on a accountability failures in public health and governance systems, as well as uplifting health worker proposals for how to improve public health systems.

The project set out to:

  • Recognize the work, needs, and proposals of health worker advocates.
  • Share diverse and creative approaches to accountability challenges in the health sector.
  • Enable health rights advocates and allies to gain insights or inspiration from protests and proposals around the world.

In its first year the project received and shared over 830 health worker protest and proposal reports from 96 countries. They were collected and shared on a Twitter account, @HealthWorkerPro. From July 2021, several researchers worked on complimentary analysis of the reports compiled and shared by the project during the first year of the pandemic.

Why Health Worker Protests?

In May 2020, when the learning project was launched, the COVID-19 pandemic was straining both public and private health care systems around the world. Health workers were risking their own lives to ensure access to healthcare and protect the lives of others. Frontline health workers were still at great risk, from lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) to discrimination or harassment. Some faced repercussions for whistleblowing or walkouts. This crisis gave rise to a new wave of innovative protests and proposals from health workers on the frontline.

Analysis of the reports of these protest and proposal reports sheds light on the health worker needs and demands expressed in the many international protests, as well as the accountability failures related to them.


Researchers involved in this project include Veena Sriram, Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA) and the School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) at the University of British Columbia; Sorcha Brophy, Assistant Professor of Health Policy & Management at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University; and Jennifer Johnson, Master of Sustainable Development Practice (MDP) student at the University of Florida. ARC director Jonathan Fox and research professor Naomi Hossain provide strategic and analytical support.

Related Resources

Heroes on Strike: Trends in Global Health Worker Protests During COVID-19 (Sorcha A. Brophy, Veena Sriram, Haotian Zong, Chloei Andres, Maria Paz Mawyin, and Narayanan GL, 2022)

This Accountability Note presents analysis of 6589 health worker protests (March 2020-21), analyzing what health workers advocated for during a time of immense pressure, and identifying some broad areas of concern for health sector accountability.


Workers not Warriors: 4 Lessons from Health Worker Protests During Covid-19 That Could Help Avert a Looming Workforce Crisis (Veena Sriram and Sorcha A. Brophy, 2022)

This blog summarizes findings on the frequency and geographic distribution of health worker protests during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and explains what issues lead health workers to protest.


Voices from the pandemic frontlines: Health worker protests and proposals from 84 countries (Jennifer Johnson 2020)

This blog summarizes preliminary analysis of the health worker protest and proposal reports in October 2020.