Minnesota Families: Understanding how to best tailor our public health response to support families during COVID-19

two adult women with an infant

In the United States, much of the current public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak has centered on social distancing and community lockdowns, with the goal of “smoothing the curve” to reduce the spike of hospitalizations and to protect elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions from contracting the virus. Families with young children are primarily being considered in terms of how they interact with older people and how they might contribute to the spread of this virus.

“It is crucial that we also begin to consider the current and long-term health and wellbeing of young people and their families,” said Katie Loth, PhD, MPH, assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, who is leading this study. “Historical events such as Hurricane Katrina have illuminated that when disruptions of this magnitude occur, they are traumatic and this trauma impacts the youngest among us in long-lasting ways.”

This study will build upon an existing cohort of families to understand the most pressing challenges they are facing—including lack of childcare, food insecurity, and lost wages—that were brought on or exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Collecting data from this cohort will provide an understanding of which families are most at risk for facing challenges and negative outcomes,” said Loth. “It will allow us to discern not only what types of supports families need, but which families are most in need of which specific supports.”

According to Loth, this data will allow for the rapid development and implementation of tailored public health approaches to reduce physical and psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 on families. The data also will enable the researchers to anticipate and plan for the most pressing needs for families as the pandemic abates and life begins to return to normal.

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.