Researcher drives voices for WHO Roadmap

With facts and figures driving conversations internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is equally important to remember – and record – the resilience of health-care workers fighting the most challenging global crisis since the Second World War.

Health Studies professor Elysée Nouvet is currently leading a qualitative study as part of the COVID-19 Research Roadmap, a social science working group convened by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ambitious research project launched last week when Nouvet and her team started conducting in-depth interviews with 50 current frontline COVID-19 pandemic health-care professionals – medical staff including community-based nurses, intensive care doctors and respiratory therapists. She believes the three-week intensive investigation will not only provide significant observations and first-hand accounts for long-term analysis, but also offer valuable insight for short-term solutions.

A major difference between this type of project and a majority of social science-focused interview studies is that Nouvet and her team are not required to transcribe hours of recordings before delivering findings and drawing conclusions. A rapid qualitative study allows them to target key words and themes and quickly translate knowledge gained to better global understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nouvet expects to have preliminary results by the end of April 2020.

“Our hope is to build evidence that can inform COVID-19 triage and triage communication strategies, as well as understand what ethical treatment of the world’s patient population looks like in the eyes of those on the front lines of healthcare delivery,” Nouvet said.

For the study, Nouvet will be conducting interviews with health-care professionals from all six WHO regions (Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific), including hotspots like New York and Italy, as well as refugee camps in countries where COVID-19 is hitting already seriously underfunded health-care systems.

The type of study questions include:

  • What care will be provided for patients who require but will not be prioritized for critical care during this pandemic?
  • What do health-care workers consider crucial to the ethical treatment of these patients?
  • How and if such prioritization plans will be shared with the affected populations and the general public?

“The need to anticipate allocation of resources and services is clear,” Nouvet said. “This has become undeniable, with Italian hospitals in those regions hardest hit by COVID-19 already needing to determine which critically ill patients will receive respirators and ventilators.”