Disruption of pandemic not all doom and gloom, study finds

By Melissa Coade

Thursday November 25, 2021

Academics and former officials pin hopes on diplomatic communications remaining open.  (Olga K/Adobe)

An Australian study of the perceived ‘silver linings’ of the large-scale public health interventions responding to the ‘first wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed support for social distancing, hand hygiene and even lockdown measures.

A nationwide analysis of feedback from 90 adult participants about their perceptions of ‘positives’ of government measures in 2020 has revealed a grateful and resilient attitude to some of the emergency public health policies.

The study’s lead author, associate professor Narelle Campbell from Flinders University, said these positive beliefs held true in spite of the negative impact to mental wellbeing and restrictions of movement connected to lockdowns.

“This study has demonstrated the remarkable ability of people to express positivity and overall resilience in the face of adversity,” Darwin-based Campbell said, noting that people valued safety and security, gratitude and appreciation, social cohesion, community resilience and the opportunity to reset priorities.

Campbell’s position with Flinders’ NT medical program is funded via the Department of Health’s rural health multidisciplinary training program, which aims to improve health outcomes through the provision of locally trained doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. 

The analysis was led by Flinders University researchers, as part of a team of regional health experts in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. The findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health this week.

According to the researcher, the analysis confirmed that the disruptions to daily life during the pandemic gave people a chance to reflect on and reassess their values and priorities. It was a valuable time to consider what was important for people, their families, and their communities, she said.

Other contributors to the study included people from WA Centre for Rural Health (University of WA), Darling Downs Health in Toowoomba and University of Queensland, Torrens University Australia in Adelaide, and La Trobe Rural Health School, Bendigo, Victoria.

Co-author Associate Professor Geoff Argus from Queensland University, and director of Southern Queensland Rural Health, said the study shone a light on a counter narrative to the story of the pandemic. 

“These findings provide unique perspectives when considering the priorities of Australians and the public health implications for a post-pandemic society,” Argus said.


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