Talk identifies risks, opportunities of COVID pandemicMarch 16, 2021
Recently invited to deliver a Lager Lecture at McMaster University, Children’s Health Policy Director Charlotte Waddell spoke on Children’s Mental Health and COVID-19.
Speaking via Zoom on Feb. 24, Waddell began by describing the high level of children’s mental health needs prior to the pandemic.
Following the pandemic, she said, it’s expected that prolonged disruptions and diverted public resources will lead to additional hardships. Worldwide, somewhere between 42 and 46 million more children are expected to fall into extreme poverty with reduced access to basic healthcare, food and vaccines.
As well, she noted, school closures imposed by nearly 200 countries have affected 85 per cent — or 1.4 billion children — worldwide.
Citing a 2020 conclusion from the United Nations Waddell said, “Children are not the face of this pandemic but they risk being among its biggest victims.” It will be most damaging for those who are already experiencing the most disadvantage, she added.
Addressing the issue of cost, Waddell pointed out that 94 percent of provincial health budgets in Canada go to hospitals, drugs and physicians while only six percent goes to public health, including prevention.
“That low figure towards public health gives us a couple of clues about why we’ve had to scramble to respond to COVID,” she said — arguing that where government is prepared to spend more money on public health, it can realize great savings. In the US, for example, preventing just one case of a severe childhood problem such as conduct disorder can yield savings of more than $8 million CAD over a lifetime.
Waddell was invited to give the speech as a recent inductee to McMaster University’s Alumni Gallery. Waddell earned her MD from McMaster where she completed residencies in Family Medicine and Psychiatry. In 2006, she was recruited by SFU to take up the Canada Research Chair in Children’s Health Policy, Tier 2, and to become director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre.
The roughly 30-minute speech was followed by a lively question and answer session. The whole video may be viewed here.