The Observatory for Children’s Education and Health

MONTREAL, June 14, 2021 – How to minimize the consequences of the pandemic on current and future generations? This is a question that will be answered by an ambitious research project carried out at CHU Sainte-Justine and at the University of Montreal under the leadership of the professor. Sylvana Cote. With major funding of $ 5 million from the three Quebec Research Funds, administered by the Quebec Research Fund – Society and Culture, theObservatory for children’s education and health (OPES) will endeavor to study in depth and on multiple fronts the repercussions of the pandemic, in order to best inform decision-makers in their efforts to ensure the future of Quebec’s children.

“Although children and adolescents are less affected by COVID-19 infection than adults, they nonetheless suffer from the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, explains professor Sylvana Côté, researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine and professor. titular at the School of Public Health of the University of Montreal. Directly or indirectly, the various confinement or health measures have affected and still affect the life trajectory of many young people, in particular those with social vulnerability or medical risk factors. “

The mission of the OPES will be to coordinate the efforts of the Quebec scientific community, in order to observe the state of children’s development in terms of education, psychosocial development, health, and economic well-being, among others, and to identify risk and protective factors (academic, individual, family, biological), but also to measure the effectiveness of social and technological innovations, all this to support children with problems.

Post-pandemic recovery

All over the world, research teams have carried out studies to understand and mitigate the negative repercussions of the pandemic on the short, medium and long term future of young people.

“By coordinating the efforts of Quebec experts in observational and interventional research in children, the OPES will make it possible to report on the best recent scientific work in education and health. Our objective is to propose a strategy to study the consequences of the pandemic, and to inspire researchers and decision-makers in the actions to be taken for the implementation of effective interventions promoting post-pandemic recovery, ”adds Professor Côté.

The observatory conducts longitudinal studies in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Institut de la statistique du Québec. Children, teachers and parents who participate in OPES studies will help understand the needs and challenges of our young people in order to guide remedial measures.

The pandemic widens the inequality gap

The closure of schools and the disruption of school rhythms will have more or less significant consequences depending on the children’s previous educational and psychosocial trajectory, and depending on the extent of the personal and family stress they experience.

“The pandemic seems to disproportionately affect children who belong to visible minorities or to economically disadvantaged families,” says Professor Côté. The adverse effects of the digital divide and the loss of cognitive and social skills will be surmountable, but in some cases it will be necessary to provide for remedial measures or psychosocial support. ”

Experts agree that in the long run, economic development will pay the price, as academic difficulties will weaken the productive potential of an entire generation.

“Faced with this situation, we cannot remain inactive. We must prepare for the future by implementing social and technological innovations based on the lessons learned in the current context, in particular by improving preschool education services, ”explains Professor Côté.

“The arrival of sunny days and the hope of a return to normalcy should not obscure the reality of the long-term consequences that the pandemic will impose on certain young people. We must continue our efforts to quantify the consequences both physically and psychologically and to prevent the crisis from jeopardizing the future prospects of a whole generation of young people, ”concludes Professor Côté.

About OPES

Created in December 2020 by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture, the OPES uses data from Quebec surveys, as well as administrative and research data to identify the best solutions for post-pandemic recovery. OPES researchers carry out longitudinal studies on the learning, psychosocial development, and lifestyles of children and young people; seroprevalence studies; projects on the transmission of COVID-19 in schools and intervention projects aimed at mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on children. They conduct collections with children, their parents and their teacher. Some projects are carried out in collaboration with the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec, and the Institut national de la santé publique du Québec.

OPES is structured around four thematic axes and two transversal axes:

Thematic axes Direction d’axes
Education Simon Larose (ULaval), Catherine Haeck (UQAM)
Mental health and well-being Marie-Claude Geoffroy (McGill), Nicholas Chadi (ESPUM, Pediatrics, UdeM)
Infection and immunity Benoît Mâsse (ESPUM, UdeM, CHUSJ) and Kate Zinszer (ESPUM, UdeM)
Healthy lifestyle Lise Gauvin (ESPUM, UdeM, CHUM), Mélanie Henderson (ESPUM, UdeM, CHUSJ)
Transverse axes
Economic development Catherine Haeck (UQAM)
Social innovation Isabelle Ouellet Morin (Criminolgoie, UdeM)

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About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center

The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with the University of Montreal. Focused on the discovery of innovative means of prevention, less intrusive and faster treatments and promising avenues of personalized medicine, it brings together more than 210 researchers, including more than 110 clinical researchers, as well as 450 graduate and postdoctoral students. The center is an integral part of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center, the largest mother-child center in Canada and the second-largest pediatric center in North America.

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