Child Healthcare, Adversity and COVID-19
About the project
Funded by the Medical Research Branch, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (Victorian Government), this project is a research collaboration with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the largest child health research institute in Australia. The project will explore the impact of COVID-19 on health and healthcare access of Victorian children and young people experiencing adversity, as well as identify strategic service system and future research priorities. From the outset, this project will include the perspectives of young people with lived experience and other key stakeholders. The Child Healthcare, Adversity and COVID-19 Project will not only generate new understandings, but will also translate this knowledge into prevention, interventions and operational practices to alleviate adverse impacts of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an event like no other in the lifetimes of Victorian children and young people. While the immediate burden of disease (that is, morbidity and mortality directly from infection with COVID-19) has been much lower in Victoria compared with many other jurisdictions internationally, this has been due to unprecedented social measures, including very prolonged lockdowns in 2020. These COVID-19 prevention and control measures have disrupted communities across Victoria, affecting almost every aspect of life including education, work, access to healthcare, and social interaction.
The impacts of COVID-19 are not equally distributed. Victorian children, young people and families who were already experiencing adversity have been disproportionally impacted by social isolation and financial hardship. Young people, lower income employees and those in regional areas were more likely to lose their jobs due to the pandemic. Many Victorian families are struggling with issues including:
- Parenting challenges
- Serious family conflict
- Family violence
- Mental illness
- Substance abuse
- Significant social and/or economic disadvantage
Such issues adversely impact the safety, wellbeing and development of Victoria’s most vulnerable children and young people now and for the rest of their lives. They also place children at increased risk of entering out-of-home care. Children and young people living with adversity, especially those in out-of-home care, are known to have high rates of health needs across all domains of health including physical, developmental, and mental health.
The anticipated prolonged and wide-reaching impacts of COVID-19 upon the health and wellbeing of children and young people living with adversity (and subsequent generations) have significant intersection between the health sector and the child and families services sector. It is therefore imperative that we identify these impacts, along with protective and risk factors, and use this knowledge to optimise outcomes for this vulnerable cohort through service improvement and future research.
Commission for Children and Young People (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on children and young people: Mental health. https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/assets/COVID-Engagement/CCYP-Mental-Health-Snapshot-web.pdf
McLean K, Clarke J, Scott D, Hiscock H, & Goldfeld S (2020). Foster and kinship carer experiences of accessing healthcare: A qualitative study of barriers, enablers and potential solutions. Children and Youth Services Review, 113:104976. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190740919312915
McLean K, Hiscock H, Scott D, & Goldfeld S (2020). Timing of health visits for Victorian children entering out-of-home care. Presentation. Australian Institute of Family Studies snack sized research showcase. https://aifs.paperlessevents.com.au/share/McLean-61#iframe
McLean K, Little K, Hiscock H, Scott D, Goldfeld S. (2019). Health needs and timeliness of assessment of Victorian children entering out-of-home care: An audit of a multidisciplinary assessment clinic. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 55(12):1470-5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jpc.14472