Murdoch Children’s Research Institute evaluating the impact of the pandemic
While most children have been fortunate to escape severe illness caused by the COVID-19 virus, they are likely to bear the burden of the pandemic in other ways for years.
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI’s) Professor Sharon Goldfeld says children are facing a “generation-defining disruption” with public health restrictions to mitigate COVID-19 infection, such as virtual learning, social distancing, increased screen time, reduced access to healthcare, no structured sport and less outside play, to have both immediate and longer-term impacts.
MCRI has been evaluating the impact of the pandemic – and especially Australia’s public health response measures – on the physical and mental wellbeing of our children and communities
As the southern hemisphere’s home of population research, MCRI already had tens of thousands of children and families involved in ongoing longitudinal studies, which collectively form the LifeCourse initiative. In early-2020, thousands of these families raised their hands to participate in a COVID-19 ‘virtual observatory’ to help identify the societal, mental health and economic impacts on children and families.
Public health measures have resulted in positive benefits for some, but others have been adversely and inequitably impacted.
Some children and families had shown remarkable resilience to the stressors of the pandemic and have reported benefits like more family time, scaling back of commitments and a sense of people looking out for each other.
Conversely, children and adolescents experiencing adversity before the pandemic have been disproportionately affected, potentially leading to a widening of disparities in child health, wellbeing, and developmental outcomes.
The achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students grows at triple the rate during remote learning according to estimates. Strategies to identify those left behind and targeted long-term interventions for those, especially in low socioeconomic school settings, will be critical.
Previous global crises and pandemics have demonstrated this can provide an opportune moment to reduce social disadvantage.<
The MCRI research calls for a ‘community child health lens’ with measures addressing financial instability through parent financial supplements, more investment in children’s health and wellbeing at school, rethinking healthcare delivery such as more integrated health and social care service hubs, focusing on prevention and early intervention for mental health and using digital solutions to improve service access.
For more information on MCRI, including their COVID-19 research response visit www.mcri.edu.au
This organisation is supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees.