Three teams of researchers from Nova Scotia have received almost $500,00 each from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to examine how the pandemic is affecting the lives of children with complex needs, woman who face violence and equity-deserving groups.
The studies are among 965 research projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic funded by the national funding organization to date. They are designed to offer recommendations on how to better serve those specific groups when public health safeguards are imposed.
Janet Curran, IWK Health Centre researcher and Dalhousie University professor, got $490,758, which included contributions from the New Brunswick Health Foundation, "to examine the wider impact of COVID-19 measures on the lives of children with complex care needs and the families."
Curran said the study, likely to take a year to complete, will include at least a dozen families from each of the three Maritime provinces.
"We know pre-pandemic that there was a gap between what was available for these families in Nova Scotia, and in the Maritimes for that matter, [and their needs]. We know that the pandemic only widened that gap," said Curran.
She said respite care wasn't available to families who needed someone to come into their homes during the pandemic and that educational supports also evaporated when schools across the region moved to virtual classes."This had a huge impact on these patients and these families," said Curran, who has previously published a study on respite care for children with complex needs.
Curran is relying on some families involved in her earlier work to help shape this study.
"We've constructed a team of parents in the Maritimes who are helping guide this work," she said. "They're actually helping us to identify what are relevant public health policies and mandates that we should pay attention to."
"For example, the closure of playgrounds and school yards, which they use as space to take their children for respite."
Curran is hoping policy-makers will be able to use the results of this study as well as its recommendations in future health emergencies.
" And I also think that it allows us to be mindful of how vulnerable, exceptionally vulnerable, these families are in such public health emergencies," said Curran.
Two other Dalhousie University researchers — Alexa Yakubovich and Janice Graham — also received funds.
Yakubovich got $499,647 "to identify and contextualize best practices in responding to violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic, while Graham received $489,556 to "engage with social scientists, public health experts, and members of equity-deserving groups to develop recommendations for a more equitable and supportive healthcare governance framework in post-COVID Canada."