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Addressing the indirect effects of COVID-19 on the health of children and young people

Dear Colleagues,

As we have all been dealing with the pandemic, and the many changes that this has had to our daily lives and hour practices, there is one message that we have heard over and over: "Children are not affected by this illness".

In fact, the truth is that children have indeed been affected by this pandemic, and in some ways much more than people realize.  While we've been focusing most of our efforts on managing the infections and preventing spread, I think it's important to now spend some time thinking about the many "unintended consequences" that this pandemic has had on our society, and in particular on our children.

In last month's CMAJ, Neil Chanchlani, Francine Buchanan and Peter Gill wrote an excellent paper entitled "Addressing the indirect effects of COVID-19 on the health of children and young people".  For any health-care providers that work with children I would highly recommend treating this.

In this paper, the authors quite clearly identify how children have indeed been impacted by this pandemic, in some ways much greater than one can imagine: The acute disruption in medical services has resulted in delayed presentation of illness, and has markedly reduced vaccination rates across the country and around the world.  Likewise, our effort to ensure that developmental conditions are identified early is now greatly compromised as children are not being seen for preventive care, and the important early interventions and programs for socialization of children have been halted.  Children are spending more time in front of screens than ever before. In addition, we also know that during this period of stress and quarantine there are much higher rates of domestic violence.  Children are not only witness to this but often victims themselves.

I would like to appeal for people to take a few minutes to read this article.  Not only does it accurately describe these challenges, but it also offers us some clear guidance on how to prioritize care for children in the areas of most need.  Its authors also proposed an approach to separating priorities for personal visits versus virtual visits, and ways to approach family hesitancies about seeking care, each of which many clinics might find helpful.

Indeed, children have been greatly spared the direct effects of the SARS-COV-2 virus, but the degree to which they are affected cannot be underestimated.

Keith

Dr Keith Menard
Head, Department of Maternity Care and Pediatrics

Medical Director, Pediatrics

Island Health