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Beyond Masks: A Policy Panel Discussion

Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents
(Past event)

Event type: Webinar

Related research: Mental Health

events19 November 2020time15:00 - 16:00 CET

UNICEF Innocenti’s new report – Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents – offers a comprehensive picture of the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, and its implications for children and adolescents. The report examines evidence from the current crisis, examines past health crises such as HIV/AIDS, SARS and Ebola to provide insights into the current one, and proposes proven and promising solutions. 

This panel discussion, timed with the launch of the Beyond Masks report, comes at a moment when policymakers are asking deep questions about how to deal with the raging pandemic in many parts of the world while ensuring children’s health, education and well-being. In it, we delve deep into Beyond Masks to better understand how its findings can shape national and subnational policy responses and individual, family and community behaviors. With COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating, there is an urgent need to find scalable and cost-effective solutions to the continued and deepening impact of the COVID crisis on the world’s youngest citizens. 

Report Authors
Lucie Cluver, Professor of Child and Family Social Work, University of Oxford and University of Cape Town
Lorraine Sherr, Professor of Clinical and Health Psychology, University College London
Mark Tomlinson, Co-Director, Institute for Life Course Health Research, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University

Commissioning Editors
Priscilla Idele, Deputy Director, UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti
Prerna Banati, Regional Advisor, Adolescent Development, UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office

Expert Discussant
Vikram Patel, The Pershing Professor of Global Health and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School

David Anthony, Chief, Convening, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti



David Anthony
Chief, Strategic Planning and Convening

UNICEF Innocenti

Priscilla Idele

UNICEF Innocenti

Prerna Banati
Regional Advisor, Adolescent Development
Lorraine Sherr
Prof of Clinical and  Health Psychology, University College London
Lucie Cluver
Professor of Child and Family Social Work, University of Oxford 
Mark Tomlinson
Co-Director: Institute for Life Course Health Research, Stellenbosch University
Vikram Patel
Professor of Global Health, Harvard Medical School

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Addressing the Multiple Impacts of COVID-19 on Children Beyond Masks

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(19 November 2020) From health to education, every child in the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many impacted in multiple ways. As the crisis rages on, further entrenching pre-existing inequalities, there is an urgent need for scalable and cost-effective solutions for children. Such solutions require more evidence on COVID-19, which is not yet available. A new report by the UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti, Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents, examines past health crises (such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola) to provide insights into COVID-19, and proposes proven and promising solutions.
Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents

Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents

All children are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, often in multiple ways. The COVID-19 pandemic is a universal crisis that has been devastating for children, families and communities, and shows no signs of abating as 2021 approaches. Ex­amining the available evidence to understand the poten­tial and actual societal effects on children and identifying viable evidence-based solutions are critical pathways to inform timely policy and programmatic responses. This Executive Summary of the UNICEF Innocenti report Beyond Masks: Societal impacts of COVID-19 and accelerated solutions for children and adolescents provides a review of literature on the societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as past health and economic shocks, and possible solutions for mitigating impact at individual, household and societal levels.
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Protecting children from harm during COVID-19 needs evidence
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Protecting children from harm during COVID-19 needs evidence

Although much of the world is focused on the “silver lining” that COVID-19 does not appear to severely impact children’s health, UNICEF is raising the alarm about the potential damage of the hidden impacts on children’s health as well as the indirect socio-economic effects of the fallout from the pandemic. In response, UNICEF Innocenti is generating evidence to assist and inform UNICEF’s COVID-19 work. This blog is about a research conducted by UNICEF on the impacts of pandemics and epidemics on child protection, including topics such as violence against children, child labour and child marriage. How are children affected by health crises?A key first step in this process is synthesising what we already know through a rapid review, which is a fast way of summarising what is known about a topic and highlights where there are gaps in our knowledge. COVID-19 affects numerous areas of children’s lives, including development and education. Child protection, including violence against children, child labour, and child marriage, is another key area impacted by the pandemic. Innocenti’s latest rapid review looks at how previous pandemics, epidemics (like Ebola and HIV/AIDS), and their control measures (such as social distancing and school closures) impact child protection. This is a particularly important issue because of the many hidden and understudied pathways between health crises and child protection areas. With the help of EPPI-Centre at University College London, over 6,000 studies were screened, of which 53 were included in the review. The broad scope of ‘child protection’Child protection is complex and includes many areas that cut across multiple aspects of children’s lives, including education and health. For this reason, the review has a very broad scope. While this means different policy needs are met, it makes completing a timely review challenging. The result is a ‘broad and shallow’ review, whereby the scope encompasses a range of areas, but the depth of analysis and specificity of policy recommendations are affected. Balancing robustness and timelinessRecent controversies point to the effects that poor quality studies and a rush to judgement can have on policy responses to COVID-19. It is generally understood, at least by the evidence synthesis community, that shortcuts and comprises on the standard systematic review template can be applied to produce something that is both policy-relevant and quick. The review is relatively comprehensive and transparent, with a publicly available methodology. However, the quality of evidence included was not assessed, which may affect the validity of the findings. There has been an unprecedented global sharing of data, editorials, policy guidance, and research during the COVID-19 crisis. While this is beneficial for evidence-informed responses, much of this research is being undertaken in an uncoordinated fashion, making it almost impossible to keep on top of new and potentially relevant research. As a result, the review may have duplicated some existing work and may be missing key evidence. Lessons LearnedFor evidence synthesis to be most useful, it may be counter-productive to expect too much from one product, especially if is a rapid evidence synthesis. Rather than one all-encompassing review, it may make sense to complete several smaller rapid reviews, each with their own specific purpose and scope. There is also value to be had in getting a draft version of the report into the public domain quickly via an open access portal. In the future, collaboration with emerging networks and initiatives will be prioritised to ensure that rigorous evidence for decision-making is made available in a timely and accessible manner. For example, the COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-making helps decision makers find the best evidence available and coordinates evidence syntheses. Global organisations responsible for setting standards for evidence synthesis are fast-tracking editorial processes for COVID-19-relevant evidence reviews. Responding quickly to a crisisDespite the challenges encountered, UNICEF was able to respond quickly to the COVID-19 crisis for various reasons. Firstly, UNICEF was well-prepared to provide relevant evidence thanks to recent work on the use research to drive change for children. Secondly, UNICEF understood that COVID-19 had serious implications for children and adapted work plans to focus on this. Thirdly, diverse expertise from UNICEF’s Child Protection Section and the evidence community were combined in an integrated effort, using methods experts and technology to find and use research fast. This helped shape the review which will assist UNICEF and others to ensure no child is left behind, during and after the pandemic. Read the full rapid review and the shorter research brief. Explore an interactive visualization in the evidence gap map. Read the study protocol on which the review was based. Shiv Bakrania is a Knowledge Management Specialist at UNICEF Innocenti. Sandy Oliver is Professor of Public Policy at UCL Institute of Education and Deputy Director of the EPPI-Centre.