Newswise — Rutgers School of Public Health instructor, Slawa Rokicki, and assistant professor Mark McGovern, have been awarded a Rutgers Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness grant to study how COVID-19 policies affect health care utilization, food security, and mental health in sub-Saharan Africa.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be severe in low-income countries, where governments have introduced a variety of social distancing measures, including imposing curfews, banning travel, and closing non-essential businesses. While these measures may help slow the spread of disease, they are also expected to have negative impacts on health and wellbeing. This is particularly important in resource-constrained countries with high rates of poverty, weak social safety nets, and economies that rely on wage workers and the informal sector. Understanding the impact of the current public health response is critical to informing urgent policy decisions and to build health system resilience in preparation for future pandemics.

Drawing on their research experience in global health and impact evaluation, Rokicki and McGovern, along with researchers from across Rutgers, Harvard, and Makerere Universities, will collaborate to conduct rapid response monthly mobile phone surveys in Uganda to assess trends in health care utilization, food security, and mental health and to evaluate how changes in COVID-19 associated public health policies affect these outcomes.

The researchers’ work will have a direct impact on COVID-19 response in Uganda through their collaboration with Makerere University and data reports will be shared with Uganda’s COVID-19 National Task Force. In the long-term, these partnerships will provide the foundation for future external funding applications and collaborative research opportunities in the global health sphere.


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