Major study on COVID-19 impacts in Aotearoa launched

New Delhi: A nationwide study to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on people in Aotearoa New Zealand has been launched today by Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

The “Impacts of COVID-19 in Aotearoa—Ngā Kawekawe o Mate Korona” study, funded by the Ministry of Health, aims to survey people aged 16 and over who had COVID-19, or were a probable case, before 1 December 2021.

Nearly 9,000 eligible people will be contacted by letter and text over the next two weeks inviting them to complete online surveys about their experiences of COVID-19 and the healthcare services they received.

The study is led by Dr Lynne Russell (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne, Kāi Tahu, Ngāti Porouand Dr Mona Jeffreys, who head-up a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, primarily from the University’s Te Hikuwai Rangahau Hauora—Health Services Research Centre. Dr Marianna Churchward (Lotofaga, Faleasiu, Samoa) leads the Pacific arm of the research.

“We want as many people as possible to take part in the surveys so we can understand their experiences of COVID-19 and assess the effectiveness of the services they received,” Dr Russell said.

A series of interviews with COVID-19 survivors will also be conducted as part of the research.

Insights gained from the study will be used to provide recommendations to the Ministry of Health on how to better support people with COVID-19 and improve health services in the future.

Survey questions that participants will be invited to answer focus on four areas:

  • the support they received (and would have liked) when they were first diagnosed with COVID-19, and how the situation affected them and their whānau
  • their experience after getting COVID-19 and the quality of the health services they accessed
  • the financial costs of COVID-19 to them and their whānau, and who (if anyone) helped care for them
  • Long COVID and symptoms that continued to affect their health beyond the first month of getting the virus.

Dr Russell said the effects of COVID-19 on Māori, Pacific communities and whānau hauā (disabled communities) are a key focus of the research.

Jenene Crossan, who was the 37th COVID-19 case in Aotearoa, is among those already signed up to participate in the study, and is one of four people who has had COVID-19 advising the research team.

Jenene tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 and has since suffered from Long COVID symptoms. She’s encouraging others who have had COVID-19 to take part in the study.

“The more we come together to understand the impacts of the virus on our people, the better we can serve and protect our tamariki and whānau.”

Speaking up “may not be comfortable, but it is the right thing to do and I hope it is rewarding for those who bravely step up,” Jenene said.

Any information participants provide to the research team would be kept strictly confidential, Dr Jeffreys said.

“We know some people may be reluctant to share information because of the stigma associated with COVID-19 infection. We want to reassure participants that their identities will remain confidential unless they give us permission to release that information,” she said.

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