The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on children. They haven’t been able to do all the normal things that make them happy. They were unable to participate in organized sports, have game dates or sleepovers with their friends, or visit their grandparents. Instead, they had to adjust to virtual learning or restricted in-person classes, and in many cases their socialization may have been primarily through virtual tours, social media, or games. in line.
Public health measures and restrictions linked to the pandemic have taken a toll on the mental health of children and youth. The situation may be even worse for children with chronic health conditions, who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and whose routine care may have been interrupted due to pandemic restrictions.
The good news is that Canadian children, ages five to 11, now have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. By getting the vaccine, children will be protected from the virus, which can alleviate the fears of children and their parents. However, little research has focused on understanding the mental and emotional impact of the pandemic on children.
Funding supports 7 research projects
Fortunately, with financial support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), researchers across the country will be examining the stressful and traumatic effects of COVID-19 on Canadian children, adolescents and their families. The results of this research can help bring joy to many children and ensure they receive the care they need to stay healthy.
Seven University of Calgary projects received over $ 1 million in operating grants from CIHR as part of the Dec. 9 announcement: five for research on understanding and mitigating the impacts of COVID- 19 on children, youth and families, and one for research on confidence in vaccines. Please see the full list of recipients at the bottom of this article.
“Better understanding and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on our communities continues to be a priority,” said Dr. William Ghali, Vice President (Research).
This CIHR funding supports projects that will highlight vaccine confidence and the impact of COVID-19 on youth and families, two areas that will greatly benefit from the commitment and focus of our researchers.
Caring for children with chronic illnesses
A researcher who received CIHR funding to assess the stressful and traumatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, youth and their families is Dr David Nicholas, PhD. As Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Partnerships at the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary, he will specifically examine how health services during the pandemic impacted pediatric patients with a range of conditions. health workers from different ethnic, cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, how should we decide what care is essential when a difficult balance must be created between public health safety and patient and family-centered care? »Asks Nicolas. “Pathways for decision-making must be put in place so that the experiences caused by this pandemic and those to come are less difficult for children who have pre-existing health problems and developmental disorders, such as heart problems, l asthma, sickle cell anemia, and autism.
Public health safety and patient care during a pandemic could be improved by developing a plan that mitigates potential challenges in providing clinical support to pediatric patients.
“The plan could be created by a group of key representatives who have clear information on what to do to optimize care during a pandemic,” says Nicholas. “This group would be made up of those who can address various areas of health issues for children and their families, as well as public health officials. “
Planning for a pandemic will also need to consider the short- and long-term implications for mental health, as well as changes to health services.
In order to create guidelines for the ethical decision making of the plan and the support of patients and families, we also need to consider the mental health tension that has arisen in our general population and the challenges faced by providers. healthcare organizations that sought to provide services to all during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his study, Nicholas and his team will collect data regarding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of participating children, youth and families through interviews conducted at clinics and health units in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. .
“The goal of our research is to quickly translate information into practical guidelines that can be used by the Canadian and international public,” says Nicholas. “By listening to the impacts of this pandemic on children, youth and their families, we will communicate our findings to health care providers and hospital leaders, as well as policy makers and family members so that planning and pandemic responsiveness can be developed which will ultimately lead to positive change.
UCalgary projects receiving CIHR operating grants
Understanding and Mitigating the Impacts of COVID-19 on Children, Youth and Families
- Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine): Perinatal psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic and effects on infant brain development in the first year of life
- Dr. Nicole Letourneau, PhD (Faculty of Nursing): Epigenetic impacts of pandemic chronic stress COVID-19 on young people: a prospective investigation into DNA methylation
- Dr. Sheri Madigan, PhD (Faculty of Arts): Leveraging a Canadian Longitudinal Cohort to Study the Evolution of Parental and Youth Mental Health Before, During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Dr Amy Metcalfe, PhD (Cumming School of Medicine): Impact of COVID Restrictions on Maternal and Child Health
- Dr David Nicholas, PhD (Faculty of Social Work): Examining the long-term psychosocial and health consequences of COVID-19 on children with health problems and their families
- Dr Jennifer Zwicker, PhD (Faculty of Kinesiology, School of Public Policy): Nothing Without Us: Towards Inclusive and Equitable Policy Strategies for Young People with Disabilities and Their Families Post-COVID19
- Dr Myles Leslie, PhD (School of Public Policy): Improving Vaccine Confidence with Better Clinical Conversations: Extending and Evaluating a Dynamic, Clinician-Focused Online Guide to Primary Care in Canada