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10th December 2021

Research into the health and wellbeing of young people takes centre stage at Evidence into Practice Symposium

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on young people across Wales, affecting their education, health and wellbeing. Research aiming to improve the lives of young people was the focus of the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre’s (WCEC) Evidence into Practice Symposium, the first event of its kind since the Centre opened in March 2021.

The event began with a presentation from the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan MS, thanking the research community in Wales for helping ensure research is recognised and valued as a fundamental part of health and social care and in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister said: “Over the last 19 months the research landscape has been transformed to meet the urgent needs created by the pandemic, and the response of the research community in Wales has been nothing short of incredible. The Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre is a strong example of that.”

Inspiring speakers and an expert panel took to the virtual stage to discuss five key evidence reviews which aim to change policy and practice for children in Wales.

Children’s health and wellbeing

Vital work from the WCEC which evaluated the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on three to 13-year-olds was presented at the event by Helen Morgan from the Specialist Unit for Review Evidence.

The evidence review, which will inform future research, found the disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic had a negative impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing, nutrition, physical health and learning. Research is still needed on ways to reduce these impacts.

Supporting the learning and wellbeing of young people

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant disruption to the education of 16 to 19-year-olds who are at a crucial time in their lives as they transition into further study or employment.

Focussing on young people who have experienced significant gaps in their education because of the pandemic, Deborah Edwards told delegates about the work of WCEC and Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care, reviewing research evidence around strategies to support learning and wellbeing, especially mental health, for this group.

Alternative education methods for students

At the Symposium, Liz Gillen from the Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care showed delegates how healthcare education for medical, nursing, dental and allied healthcare students changed considerably during the pandemic. She discussed a WCEC report which investigated the effectiveness of the alternative education methods that were used, like remote learning.

Preventing infection in education and childcare settings

The role played by children and educational settings in the spread of COVID-19 has been a constant concern throughout the pandemic, and as a result many safety measures were introduced worldwide.

The aim of this review, presented by Chukwudi Okolie from Public Health Wales at the Symposium, was to identify effective ways to prevent the spread. Findings from this report informed Welsh Government’s ‘Local COVID-19 Infection Control Decision Framework’ when schools returned in September 2021.

COVID-19 disinfection in education settings

Several ways of destroying COVID-19 bacteria were being considered for use in schools to reduce the risk of transmission to pupils and teachers. Judit Csontos, Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care, focussed the final presentation of the day on a WCEC evidence review assessing how safe and effective these methods were.

This review has guided Welsh Government in how to invest post-COVID recovery resources around ventilation in classrooms.

Professor Adrian Edwards, Director of the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre, who chaired the event said: “We were delighted to have over 100 people attended the Symposium from across UK, and to have delegates government, health, education sectors and members of the public. The reviews have already made an impact for learners in Wales, but there is always more work to be done. We hope to help improve the lives of everyone in Wales by informing future policy and practice.

“We plan to hold these events every two to three months, to share the work of the WCEC with the people of Wales. The next topics are likely to be around NHS service impacts and responses, and also on inequalities affecting different groups in the population.”

Mari James, Chair of the PRIME Super Group, a group of members of the public who support research activities at the Centre for Primary and Emergency Care Research, said: “The Symposium was very encouraging, not only showing how the Wales COVID-19 Evidence Centre swiftly produce important evidence of key aspects of the coronavirus pandemic as it applies to Wales, but also in bringing academics and Welsh Government together to produce evidence based policy and practice. It is also pleasing to hear that patient and public experience is at the heart of the Centre.”

View the presentations:

Impact of educational and other restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic on children aged 3-13 years – Helen Morgan, Specialist Unit for Review Evidence

Supporting learning and wellbeing among 16–19-year-old learners who have experienced significant disruption in their education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – Deborah Edwards, Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care

Alternative education delivery strategies for undergraduate and postgraduate medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy education during the COVID-19 pandemic – Liz Gillen, Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care

Infection prevention and control measures applied in education and childcare settings for children – Chukwudi Okolie, Public Health Wales

COVID-19 disinfection methods (including ozone machines) in educational settings for children and young people – Judit Csontos, Wales Centre for Evidence Based Care