Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers and policy leaders are searching for ways to mitigate effects of the crisis on vulnerable populations. Experts in child health discussed the pandemic’s lasting effects on kids and what health care and policy leaders should keep in mind going forward during The Immediate and Lasting Impact of COVID-19 on Children, an Aug. 4 webinar hosted by the Alliance for Health Policy, co-sponsored by Children’s Hospital Association.
Children’s behavioral health at serious risk
Children’s behavioral health is a major concern in the short-term and the long-term. Kids are experiencing isolation and anxiety and are separated from access to school-based mental health resources. The pandemic experience could lead to trauma-related mental health diagnoses and long-term behavioral, emotional, psychological, and physical challenges. It was noted that adolescents, ages 11-24, are particularly susceptible to consequences of stress.
A widening education gap
If schools remain closed, there will be a widening education gap between those children in families with access to resources and those without. The pandemic is highlighting inequities in the home as children have transitioned to virtual learning. Access to internet, other types of technology and online tutoring vary, which can affect a child’s learning experience.
COVID-19 an adverse experience
Families suffering disparities including racism, poverty, housing and food insecurity are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, which compounds adverse childhood experiences and increases a child’s chances of negative outcomes long term. Children in minority families are more likely to contract the virus and to lose a parent or friend to the disease.
According to the experts, interventions that should be considered moving forward include investing in telehealth for increased capacity and access to care, bringing a trauma-focused lens to the multiple dimensions of health care, supporting individuals and communities through resiliency strategies, and creating safety plans for going back to school that keep kids and teachers safe.
The webinar was facilitated by Sarah Dash, MPH, president and CEO of Alliance for Public Health. Insight was provided by David Rubin, M.D., MSCE and director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Tamera Coyne-Beasley, M.D., MPH, Derroll M. Dawkins, M.D. Endowed Chair in Adolescent Medicine, Vice Chair for Community Engagement at Children’s of Alabama; Gary Blau, Ph.D., executive director of The Hackett Center for Mental Health; Wendy Price, Psy.D., NCSP, president of the National Association of School Psychologists.