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In the wake of COVID 19, Dal researchers explore its impact on the most vulnerable Canadians

Posted by Andrew Riley on April 19, 2022 in News
Dalhousie researchers are investigating the pandemic's broader impact on Canadians, including women who experienced increased domestic violence. (Eric Ward/Unsplash)
Dalhousie researchers are investigating the pandemic's broader impact on Canadians, including women who experienced increased domestic violence. (Eric Ward/Unsplash)

As people begin to contemplate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dalhousie researchers are investigating its broader impact on Canadians, including equity-deserving communities, women who experienced increased violence, and children with complex health needs.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is providing $1,479,972 in operating grants to go to Dalhousie scholars focused on ensuring we don’t lose sight of issues revealed during the pandemic in how we serve and protect vulnerable populations.

“It has been inspiring to see our researchers step up to the challenge of the pandemic and contend with it across so many fronts,” says Alice Aiken, Dalhousie’s vice-president research and innovation. “And now, as we are learning to live with COVID, our researchers are helping us learn from what we went through, where we did well and where we need to improve, so that we can be better prepared for the future.”

In addition to this most recent funding, Dalhousie has received extensive support throughout the pandemic from provincial and federal government partners to conduct COVID-focused research across a range of disciplines. Dal researchers are working to understand cognitive abnormalities in COVID-19 survivors, investigating misinformation and stigma during the pandemic, creating tests for early diagnosis of coronavirus severity, grappling with the effects of social isolation, and much more.

Related reading: Dal receives more than $3.7 million for research equipment and infrastructure

Read about Dalhousie’s latest recipients of CIHR funding to pursue COVID-related research.

Janet Curran, Faculty of Health

Uncovering the impact of COVID on children with complex care needs

Before the pandemic, caregivers of children requiring complex care reported numerous gaps in programs and services, including a lack of access to respite care and effective coordination between service providers. COVID public health measures added a new level of complexity and pressure on already imperfectly delivered services. While measures slowed community spread, reduced deaths, and decreased the burden on the health care system, they also led to unintended consequences for many Canadian families. Dr. Curran and her research team will examine how these changes impacted children with complex care needs and their families to help build strategies that will be responsive to their needs in future public health emergencies.

Alexa Yakubovich, Faculty of Medicine

Counteracting violence against women during health emergencies

Emerging research shows that women experienced increased rates of gender-based violence during the COVID pandemic, including domestic and sexual violence. Dr. Yakubovich and her research team will investigate how organizations that serve women who experienced violence adapted during the pandemic in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. They will also evaluate how well these adaptations met the needs of women across a diversity of social backgrounds, including different gender, sexual, and racial identities, to provide guidance to support women during future public health emergencies.

Janice Graham, Faculty of Medicine

Building a more resilience and equitable pandemic response

The hollowing out of public health prior to COVID-19 exposed Canada’s diminished ability to anticipate and respond to a public health emergency. Fragmentation, implementation problems, and insufficient capacity to anticipate, learn and adapt, characterizes the landscape. A more coherent governance framework informed by those profoundly impacted by the pandemic but habitually sidelined in governance design is needed. Through a series of deliberative engagements, Janice Graham, Shawn Harmon, their pan-Canadian social science, public health and immunization research team, and equity-seeking groups will develop a public health governance framework, an outline for a Canadian Public Health Act, and communication tools to engage the broader public.

Dr. Graham and team pictured below.