Working with and for children and families, our researchers are studying how best to help them achieve optimal health and well-being, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
photo: Riley Brandt, UCalgary
Alberta Childhood COVID-19 Cohort Study
COVID-19 and children – Precision Health approach
This pan-Alberta study in partnership with Alberta Precision Laboratories will provide data on COVID-19 transmission by children, their immunity levels and identify biomarkers to explain how the virus is impacting children. The genomics team will investigate the immune responses and the genes of children to pinpoint who is at risk for moderate to severe COVID-19 illness. The team will also delve into the unique bar code of each instance of the virus to understand community spread.
“We want to better understand how contagious children are, precisely how the virus is affecting their young bodies, and how children develop immunity against COVID-19,” says Dr. Jim Kellner, MD.
“The genetic code of the virus is like a FED EX label,” says Dr. Francois Bernier, MD. “Deep analysis of the virus’ genes will allow us to precisely trace transmission, allowing us to say ‘this one originated in Europe, and this one came from the United States’,” he says.
Courtesy: Jacques family (March 2020)
Tracking moms and babies’ stress and anxiety during COVID-19
Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD, is leading a study to shed light on stress, depression and infant brain development during the pandemic. More than 3,500 pregnant women across Canada are participating in the study. Initial findings show expectant moms have elevated levels of depression and anxiety, at three to four times the levels normally experienced. Early results show that factors such as a good sleep and a supportive partner reduced stress. The next phase of the research will look at how these symptoms are changing over time, and the impact on infant brain development.
"This research is going to show how to support moms and how to support babies better so that everyone's as healthy as can be before, during and after birth."
“Implementing a virtual mindfulness-based program for youth with neurodevelopmental disorders and their caregivers is a cost effective, easily-accessible way to support families during this time, improve their mental health, and answer unique research questions.”
Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, R. Psych.
Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Caregivers and Youth with Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Young people with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) such as autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and their caregivers are at particularly high risk for experiencing distress and mental health issues during the pandemic. Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, R. Psych, is offering a 6-week virtual mindfulness-based program for youth with NDDs and their caregiver to investigate how this intervention can impact feelings of well-being. The team is following up with families on their satisfaction with the intervention and improvements in stress and feelings of social support and connectedness. McMorris’ team is partnering with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Special Olympics Canada and Special Olympics International.
Photo: Riley Brandt
Global study to improve diagnosis and treatment for kids
Dr. Stephen Freedman, MD, is leading a world-wide team of pediatric emergency medicine physicians and researchers to identify the differences in symptoms between children infected by COVD-19 and other respiratory viruses, such as influenza. They are collecting data on 12,500 children brought to ERs with respiratory illness at 57 sites in 14 countries. The team is following the children for 90 days, recording travel history, exposures, and symptoms, and reviewing lab tests, X-rays, treatment, and outcomes. Findings are being shared in real time with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and the World Health Organization.
“We want to identify at-risk children, and provide them with the most beneficial interventions at the best time to promote their recovery.”
Dr. Freedman, ACHF Professor in Child Health and Wellness
Our research is generously supported by community donations through the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation.