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2.
BMJ Paediatr Open ; 6(1)2022 07.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1973854

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: There are calls for research into the mental health consequences of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia's initial, effective suppression of COVID-19 offers insights into these indirect impacts in the relative absence of the disease. We aimed to describe the mental health experiences of Australian caregivers and children over 12 months, reporting differences related to demographic, socioeconomic and lockdown characteristics. METHODS: Data were from Australia's only nationally representative, repeated cross-sectional survey of caregivers with children (0-17 years). N=2020 caregivers participated in June 2020, N=1434 in September 2020 and N=2508 in July 2021. Caregivers reported their mental health (poor vs not, Kessler-6), and perceived impacts of the pandemic on theirs and their children's mental health (negative vs none/positive). Data were weighted to approximate population distributions of caregiver age, gender, sole caregiving, number and ages of children, state/territory and neighbourhood-level disadvantage. RESULTS: Perceived impacts on mental health were more frequently negative for female (vs male) caregivers and older (vs younger) children. Poor caregiver mental health (Kessler-6) was more common for families experiencing socioeconomic adversity (especially financial), while perceived impacts were more frequently negative for more socially advantaged groups. Caregivers who experienced the least total lockdown reported similar mental health over time. Otherwise, poor mental health and perceived negative impacts increased over time with increasing total length of lockdown. CONCLUSION: Despite Australia's low infection rates, the negative mental health experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic are real and concerning. Addressing poor mental health must be central to ongoing pandemic recovery efforts for families and children.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Australia/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Caregivers/psychology , Child , Communicable Disease Control , Cross-Sectional Studies , Female , Humans , Male , Mental Health , Pandemics
3.
Lancet Reg Health West Pac ; 19: 100369, 2022 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1829149

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in children is an important consideration for control measures. To inform the safe re-opening of Victorian schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) in late 2020, a detailed analysis of local data was undertaken. METHODS: Data on all Victorian SARS-CoV-2 confirmed cases, their close contacts, and ECEC/school events from the first case in Victoria to the end of the third school term (25/01/2020 - 18/09/2020) were analysed. We compared temporal and geographic trends in cases linked to ECEC/school events and community cases; and describe events with onward transmission by age of first case, and public health actions. FINDINGS: Victoria recorded 20,049 SARS-CoV-2 cases during the study period. In total, 1,691 cases and 18,423 contacts were linked to 339 events in ECEC/schools. Many (n=224, 66·1%) events had no evidence of onward transmission, and most (96·5%) involved <10 cases. Onward transmission was more common when the first case was older: when first case was aged 0-5 years, 14·1% events involved additional cases, compared to 30·5% (6-12 years), 33·3% (13-15 years), 42·9% (16-18 years), and 39·1% when the first case was an adult. ECEC/schools were closed within a median of one day (IQR 0-2) from laboratory notification of the first case. INTERPRETATION: Mitigation measures and rapid responses prevented most SARS-CoV-2 cases in ECEC/schools from becoming outbreaks in Victoria in 2020. As new variants emerge and vaccination coverage increases, ECEC/school mitigation strategies should be tailored to local community transmission and educational level. FUNDING: The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

4.
Child Care Health Dev ; 48(6): 1040-1051, 2022 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1774761

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: We examine (1) the frequency of financial difficulties in Australian families with young children (0-8 years) in the early and later phases of the pandemic; (2) the extent to which parents' pre-pandemic socio-economic disadvantage (SED) predicted financial difficulties; and (3) whether grandparent intergenerational SED further amplified this risk. METHOD: Data: Australian Temperament Project (ATP; established 1983, N = 2443) and ATP Generation 3 study (ATPG3; established 2012; N = 702), of which 74% (N = 553) completed a COVID-specific module in the early (May-September 2020) and/or later (October-December 2021) phases of the pandemic. OUTCOMES: Parent-reported loss of employment/reduced income, difficulty paying for essentials, and financial strain. EXPOSURES: Pre-pandemic parent and grandparent education and occupation. ANALYSIS: Logistic regressions, estimated via generalized estimating equations, were used to examine associations between the pre-pandemic SED of parents and grandparents and their interaction with financial difficulties, adjusting for potential confounders. RESULTS: At both pandemic time points, a third of parents reported adverse financial impacts (early: 34%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 30-38; later: 32%, 95% CI = 28-36). Each standard deviation increase in the parents' pre-pandemic SED was associated with a 36% increase in the odds of reporting multiple financial difficulties (odds ratio [OR] = 1.36, 95% CI = 1.04-1.78). There was little evidence of an interaction between the SED of parents and grandparents. CONCLUSIONS: Financial impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic were common and, irrespective of grandparent SED, disproportionately borne by parents with higher pre-pandemic SED. Given the well-established relationship between disadvantage and child health and development, sustained and well-targeted government supports will be critical to minimizing adverse impacts in years to come.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Adenosine Triphosphate , Australia/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Child , Child, Preschool , Humans , Income , Pandemics , Parents
5.
Med J Aust ; 216(7): 364-372, 2022 04 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1643809

ABSTRACT

▪In this narrative review, we summarise the vast and burgeoning research on the potential and established indirect impacts on children of the COVID-19 pandemic. We used a community child health lens to organise our findings and to consider how Australia might best respond to the needs of children (aged 0-12 years). ▪We synthesised the literature on previous pandemics, epidemics and natural disasters, and the current COVID-19 pandemic. We found clear evidence of adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children that either repeated or extended the findings from previous pandemics. ▪We identified 11 impact areas, under three broad categories: child-level factors (poorer mental health, poorer child health and development, poorer academic achievement); family-level factors that affect children (poorer parent mental health, reduced family income and job losses, increased household stress, increased abuse and neglect, poorer maternal and newborn health); and service-level factors that affect children (school closures, reduced access to health care, increased use of technology for learning, connection and health care). ▪There is increasing global concern about the likely disproportionate impact of the current pandemic on children experiencing adversity, widening existing disparities in child health and developmental outcomes. ▪We suggest five potential strategy areas that could begin to address these inequities: addressing financial instability through parent financial supplements; expanding the role of schools to address learning gaps and wellbeing; rethinking health care delivery to address reduced access; focusing on prevention and early intervention for mental health; and using digital solutions to address inequitable service delivery.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Child , Child Health , Family , Humans , Infant, Newborn , Mental Health
6.
BMJ Open ; 11(12): e056297, 2021 12 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1573925

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: Poverty has far-reaching and detrimental effects on children's physical and mental health, across all geographies. Financial advice and income-maximisation services can provide a promising opportunity for shifting the physical and mental health burdens that commonly occur with financial hardship, yet awareness of these services is limited, and referrals are not systematically integrated into existing healthcare service platforms. We aim to map and synthesise evidence on the impact of healthcare-income maximisation models of care for families of children aged 0-5 years in high-income countries on family finances, parent/caregiver(s) or children's health and well-being. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: To be included in the review, studies must be families (expectant mothers or parents/caregivers) of children who are aged between 0 and 5 years, accessing a healthcare service, include a referral from healthcare to an income-maximisation service (ie, financial counselling), and examine impacts on child and family health and well-being. A comprehensive electronic search strategy will be used to identify studies written in English, published from inception to January 2021, and indexed in MEDLINE, EMBase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Proquest, Family & Society Studies Worldwide, Cochrane Library, and Informit Online. Search strategies will include terms for: families, financial hardship and healthcare, in various combinations. Bibliographies of primary studies and review articles meeting the inclusion criteria will be searched manually to identify further eligible studies, and grey literature will also be searched. Data on objective and self-reported outcomes and study quality will be independently extracted by two review authors; any disagreements will be resolved through a third reviewer. The protocol follows the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethical approval is not required. The results will be disseminated widely via peer-reviewed publication and presentations at conferences related to this field. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD42020195985.


Subject(s)
Delivery of Health Care , Income , Child , Child Health , Child, Preschool , Counseling , Humans , Infant , Infant, Newborn , Poverty , Research Design , Systematic Reviews as Topic
7.
PLoS One ; 16(9): e0257357, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1405343

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Australia has maintained low rates of SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) infection, due to geographic location and strict public health restrictions. However, the financial and social impacts of these restrictions can negatively affect parents' and children's mental health. In an existing cohort of mothers recruited for their experience of adversity, this study examined: 1) families' experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions in terms of clinical exposure, financial hardship family stress, and family resilience (termed 'COVID-19 impacts'); and 2) associations between COVID-19 impacts and maternal and child mental health. METHODS: Participants were mothers recruited during pregnancy (2013-14) across two Australian states (Victoria and Tasmania) for the 'right@home' trial. A COVID-19 survey was conducted from May-December 2020, when children were 5.9-7.2 years old. Mothers reported COVID-19 impacts, their own mental health (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales short-form) and their child's mental health (CoRonavIruS Health and Impact Survey subscale). Associations between COVID-19 impacts and mental health were examined using regression models controlling for pre-COVID-19 characteristics. RESULTS: 319/406 (79%) mothers completed the COVID-19 survey. Only one reported having had COVID-19. Rates of self-quarantine (20%), job or income loss (27%) and family stress (e.g., difficulty managing children's at-home learning (40%)) were high. Many mothers also reported family resilience (e.g., family found good ways of coping (49%)). COVID-19 impacts associated with poorer mental health (standardised coefficients) included self-quarantine (mother: ß = 0.46, child: ß = 0.46), financial hardship (mother: ß = 0.27, child: ß = 0.37) and family stress (mother: ß = 0.49, child: ß = 0.74). Family resilience was associated with better mental health (mother: ß = -0.40, child: ß = -0.46). CONCLUSIONS: The financial and social impacts of Australia's public health restrictions have substantially affected families experiencing adversity, and their mental health. These impacts are likely to exacerbate inequities arising from adversity. To recover from COVID-19, policy investment should include income support and universal access to family health services.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/psychology , Mental Health , Mothers/psychology , Quarantine/psychology , Adult , COVID-19/economics , COVID-19/prevention & control , Child , Cost of Illness , Female , Humans , Male , Psychology, Child , Quarantine/economics , Resilience, Psychological
8.
J Paediatr Child Health ; 57(9): 1362-1369, 2021 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1261157

ABSTRACT

In 2020, school and early childhood educational centre (ECEC) closures affected over 1.5 billion school-aged children globally as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Attendance at school and access to ECEC is critical to a child's learning, well-being and health. School closures increase inequities by disproportionately affecting vulnerable children. Here, we summarise the role of children and adolescents in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission and that of schools and ECECs in community transmission and describe the Australian experience. In Australia, most SARS-CoV-2 cases in schools were solitary (77% in NSW and 67% in Victoria); of those that did progress to an outbreak, >90% involved fewer than 10 cases. Australian and global experience has demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 is predominantly introduced into schools and ECECs during periods of heightened community transmission. Implementation of public health mitigation strategies, including effective testing, tracing and isolation of contacts, means schools and ECECs can be safe, not drivers of transmission. Schools and ECEC are essential services and so they should be prioritised to stay open for face-to-face learning. This is particularly critical as we continue to manage the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Pandemics , Adolescent , Child , Child, Preschool , Humans , Pandemics/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2 , Schools , Victoria
9.
Med J Aust ; 214 Suppl 8: S5-S40, 2021 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1256945

ABSTRACT

CHAPTER 1: HOW AUSTRALIA IMPROVED HEALTH EQUITY THROUGH ACTION ON THE SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH: Do not think that the social determinants of health equity are old hat. In reality, Australia is very far away from addressing the societal level drivers of health inequity. There is little progressive policy that touches on the conditions of daily life that matter for health, and action to redress inequities in power, money and resources is almost non-existent. In this chapter we ask you to pause this reality and come on a fantastic journey where we envisage how COVID-19 was a great disruptor and accelerator of positive progressive action. We offer glimmers of what life could be like if there was committed and real policy action on the social determinants of health equity. It is vital that the health sector assists in convening the multisectoral stakeholders necessary to turn this fantasy into reality. CHAPTER 2: ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER CONNECTION TO CULTURE: BUILDING STRONGER INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE WELLBEING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have long maintained that culture (ie, practising, maintaining and reclaiming it) is vital to good health and wellbeing. However, this knowledge and understanding has been dismissed or described as anecdotal or intangible by Western research methods and science. As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is a poorly acknowledged determinant of health and wellbeing, despite its significant role in shaping individuals, communities and societies. By extension, the cultural determinants of health have been poorly defined until recently. However, an increasing amount of scientific evidence supports what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always said - that strong culture plays a significant and positive role in improved health and wellbeing. Owing to known gaps in knowledge, we aim to define the cultural determinants of health and describe their relationship with the social determinants of health, to provide a full understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing. We provide examples of evidence on cultural determinants of health and links to improved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. We also discuss future research directions that will enable a deeper understanding of the cultural determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. CHAPTER 3: PHYSICAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH: HEALTHY, LIVEABLE AND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES: Good city planning is essential for protecting and improving human and planetary health. Until recently, however, collaboration between city planners and the public health sector has languished. We review the evidence on the health benefits of good city planning and propose an agenda for public health advocacy relating to health-promoting city planning for all by 2030. Over the next 10 years, there is an urgent need for public health leaders to collaborate with city planners - to advocate for evidence-informed policy, and to evaluate the health effects of city planning efforts. Importantly, we need integrated planning across and between all levels of government and sectors, to create healthy, liveable and sustainable cities for all. CHAPTER 4: HEALTH PROMOTION IN THE ANTHROPOCENE: THE ECOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH: Human health is inextricably linked to the health of the natural environment. In this chapter, we focus on ecological determinants of health, including the urgent and critical threats to the natural environment, and opportunities for health promotion arising from the human health co-benefits of actions to protect the health of the planet. We characterise ecological determinants in the Anthropocene and provide a sobering snapshot of planetary health science, particularly the momentous climate change health impacts in Australia. We highlight Australia's position as a major fossil fuel producer and exporter, and a country lacking cohesive and timely emissions reduction policy. We offer a roadmap for action, with four priority directions, and point to a scaffold of guiding approaches - planetary health, Indigenous people's knowledge systems, ecological economics, health co-benefits and climate-resilient development. Our situation requires a paradigm shift, and this demands a recalibration of health promotion education, research and practice in Australia over the coming decade. CHAPTER 5: DISRUPTING THE COMMERCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH: Our vision for 2030 is an Australian economy that promotes optimal human and planetary health for current and future generations. To achieve this, current patterns of corporate practice and consumption of harmful commodities and services need to change. In this chapter, we suggest ways forward for Australia, focusing on pragmatic actions that can be taken now to redress the power imbalances between corporations and Australian governments and citizens. We begin by exploring how the terms of health policy making must change to protect it from conflicted commercial interests. We also examine how marketing unhealthy products and services can be more effectively regulated, and how healthier business practices can be incentivised. Finally, we make recommendations on how various public health stakeholders can hold corporations to account, to ensure that people come before profits in a healthy and prosperous future Australia. CHAPTER 6: DIGITAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH: THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: We live in an age of rapid and exponential technological change. Extraordinary digital advancements and the fusion of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things and quantum computing constitute what is often referred to as the digital revolution or the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). Reflections on the future of public health and health promotion require thorough consideration of the role of digital technologies and the systems they influence. Just how the digital revolution will unfold is unknown, but it is clear that advancements and integrations of technologies will fundamentally influence our health and wellbeing in the future. The public health response must be proactive, involving many stakeholders, and thoughtfully considered to ensure equitable and ethical applications and use. CHAPTER 7: GOVERNANCE FOR HEALTH AND EQUITY: A VISION FOR OUR FUTURE: Coronavirus disease 2019 has caused many people and communities to take stock on Australia's direction in relation to health, community, jobs, environmental sustainability, income and wealth. A desire for change is in the air. This chapter imagines how changes in the way we govern our lives and what we value as a society could solve many of the issues Australia is facing - most pressingly, the climate crisis and growing economic and health inequities. We present an imagined future for 2030 where governance structures are designed to ensure transparent and fair behaviour from those in power and to increase the involvement of citizens in these decisions, including a constitutional voice for Indigenous peoples. We imagine that these changes were made by measuring social progress in new ways, ensuring taxation for public good, enshrining human rights (including to health) in legislation, and protecting and encouraging an independent media. Measures to overcome the climate crisis were adopted and democratic processes introduced in the provision of housing, education and community development.


Subject(s)
Health Equity/trends , Health Promotion/trends , Australia , Commerce , Community Health Planning/trends , Digital Technology/trends , Environmental Health/trends , Forecasting , Health Services, Indigenous/trends , Humans , Social Determinants of Health/trends
10.
BMJ Open ; 11(5): e044488, 2021 05 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1238534

ABSTRACT

INTRODUCTION: Poverty and deprivation can harm children's future health, learning, economic productivity and societal participation. The Australian Healthier Wealthier Families project seeks to reduce the childhood inequities caused by poverty and deprivation by creating a systematic referral pathway between two free, community-based services: universal, well-child nursing services, which provide health and development support to families with children from birth to school entry, and financial counselling. By adapting the successful Scottish 'Healthier Wealthier Children' model, the objectives of this Australian pilot are to test the (1) feasibility of systematising the referral pathway, and (2) short-term impacts on household finances, caregiver health, parenting efficacy and financial service use. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This pilot randomised controlled trial will run in three sites across two Australian states (Victoria and New South Wales), recruiting a total of 180 participants. Nurses identify eligible caregivers with a 6-item, study-designed screening survey for financial hardship. Caregivers who report one or more risk factors and consent are randomised. The intervention is financial counselling. The comparator is usual care plus information from a government money advice website. Feasibility will be evaluated using the number/proportion of caregivers who complete screening, consent and research measures, and access financial counselling. Though powered to assess feasibility, impacts will be measured 6 months post-enrolment with qualitative interviews and questionnaires about caregiver-reported income, loans and costs (adapted from national surveys, for example, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey); health (General Health Questionnaire 1, EuroQol five-dimensional questionnaire, Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale short-form); efficacy (from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children); and financial service use (study-designed) compared between arms. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethics committees of the Royal Children's Hospital (HREC/57372/RCHM-2019) and South West Sydney Local Health District (2019/ETH13455) have approved the study. Participants and stakeholders will receive results through regular communication channels comprising meetings, presentations and publications. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ACTRN12620000154909; prospectively registered. Pre-results.


Subject(s)
Financial Stress , Nurses , Child , Child, Preschool , Counseling , Feasibility Studies , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , New South Wales , Pilot Projects , Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic , Victoria
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