Recognizing early that rehabilitation would be essential for many in their recovery from COVID-19 infection, WHO/Europe quickly convened experts and people recovering from COVID-19 to produce the patient leaflet ‘Support for rehabilitation: self-management after COVID-19-related illness’.
The resource provides evidence-based support and advice for adults who are recovering from COVID-19, whether hospitalized or not. It compliments care received from health care professionals and can be tailored to an individual’s needs. The leaflet provides information for patients on considerations for their rehabilitation on a wide range of areas, such as managing breathlessness, physical activity and exercise, energy conservation and fatigue. There is also a helpful symptom tracker.
The first edition was published in July 2020 and proved to be such a valuable resource to countries that it has been translated into 17 languages. In 2020 it was WHO/Europe’s second most downloaded document in Polish, with 175 000 downloads, and the English version was ranked as its fourth most popular publication.
In Poland, the Ministry of Health endorsed the leaflet and the Polish Chamber of Physiotherapists conducted a huge campaign to distribute 70 000 copies, and campaigns on radio, television and social media. The leaflet was even promoted in bus stop posters in 46 cities, encouraging people to download the leaflet by scanning a QR code.
Following developments in our understanding of the condition, and the emergence of the post-COVID-19 condition, an updated second edition of the leaflet was published in August 2021. It was translated into 19 languages, including WHO/Europe’s first ever translation of a document into Chinese, which was done in close collaboration with the WHO Country Office in China.
None of this would have been possible without the support of the Publications team at WHO/Europe, which checks the standard and presentation of all WHO materials to ensure they are of the highest quality. In addition, the team indexes, categorizes and archives materials in the digital library, so they can be found easily and are always accessible to WHO/Europe’s audience.
In Italy, Giulio, a 59-year-old from Rome, told WHO that he did both breathing and strengthening exercises regularly from the leaflet. He said, “Without it I would not have been able to recover because, unfortunately, I did not have access to rehabilitation services from the local health authority. I also sent the booklet to 2 of my friends who had similar problems.”
In Japan, the Hokkaido Shimbun, the seventh largest newspaper in the country with a circulation of 900 000, published the Japanese translation of the leaflet, which was downloaded nearly 24 000 times.
In Türkiye , the link to the leaflet was posted on the website of the Turkish Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, while in Albania, the Deputy Director of the National Health Operator, Dr Markens Shllaku, told us that the leaflets were very well-received with useful, updated messages. A physiotherapist in Australia said that their patient would walk around the ward with the leaflet to ensure it was not thrown out by cleaners or misplaced in his room.
The rehabilitation program at WHO/Europe is delighted that the leaflet was so appreciated by countries and remains at their service to support whenever needed.