Western University will be a key player in an accelerated national effort to understand and control the spread of COVID-19.
Health Sciences and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor Anita Kothari is part of a team, with co-investigator Lindsay Foisey and Lorie Donelle, aimed at helping public health agencies provide timely, credible, evidence-based information on social media channels.
Smith has received a grant of $283,656, while Kothari’s team is receiving $129,600 – two projects among $26.7 million collectively awarded to 47 research teams to fast-track a comprehensive Canadian response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Canada-wide grants announced Friday by federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu will examine prevention, treatment, drug development, transmission pathways, co-ordination and logistics, ethics and public-health response.
Smith, who has had an ongoing ethics advisory role to the World Health Organization, will examine how the world’s response to the Ebola virus – when treatment and vaccines were developed in a matter of months, instead of the usual decades – might serve as an ethics template during this health crisis. “We’re all in this together. The more people worry that everyone is affected, or could be affected, the more we will see solidarity, to collaborate instead of to compete,” Smith says.
Kothari’s team is looking to develop an emergency response toolkit that public health agencies could use to standardize social-media strategies, monitor misinformation and respond to concerns during an infectious outbreak or other public-health emergency. “At the national level, there’s an opportunity to develop some co-ordinated guidelines about developing emergency resources,” says Kothari.
Funding for this research comes through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Genome Canada (GC).
In a statement on Friday, Hajdu said the “Canada’s researchers are some of the best in the world, and this funding will allow them to conduct groundbreaking research on a novel coronavirus. Protecting the health and well-being of all Canadians is our top priority, and the research conducted thanks to this funding will contribute to mitigating the outbreak of COVID-19.”
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