School in the time of Covid

Provocative article on school closures – worth a read. 

Suppose, as a thought experiment, that a company named Anredom had developed a different “vaccine” by April 2020. The difference is that theirs doesn’t work, it’s just some chemical that likely has has little effect on Covid-19. Suppose moreover that the chemical can cause brain damage when injected into humans. For many, the damage is minor and and short-lived. Others experience more serious damage and require medical intervention, but they ultimately recover within a few months or a year. But for a few—say, 1%—the damage is permanent and substantial: it renders them less able to navigate life and so lowers their life-time earnings, life-expectancy, health indicators, and other quality-of-life measures. Suppose, finally, that in April 2020 we knew enough about the chemical to predict all this, both its inefficacy against Covid-19 and its harmful effects. Nonetheless, Anredom requests that we skip clinical trials and start injecting the chemical into school-aged children right away. Should we? Of course not. The idea is sickening. I claim that extended school closures are the same in all morally relevant respects.
— Read on

Quick, but not dirty – Can rapid evidence reviews usefully inform policy?

What systematic reviews are NOT are literature reviews. They avoid cherry picking individual studies – consciously or not – that fit a preconceived idea or narrative. This attempt at comprehensiveness is important for policy: where research summaries on issues of national importance should avoid bias towards some studies and the exclusion of inconvenient research.
— Read on

Speaking COVID-19: Supporting COVID-19 communication and engagement efforts with people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

The pre-print version of this paper written with my colleagues Holly Seale, Anita Heywood, Ikram Abdi, Abela Mahimbo, Ashfaq Chauhan and Lisa Woodland is available. It provides timely evidence about the need for the development of COVID-related resources, messages and financial support for culturally diverse communities.

N.B. it’s a preprint so it hasn’t been through peer review yet.

Conceptualising how emerging infectious diseases exacerbate inequalities

There’s a really interesting commentary piece by Prof Clare Bambra in the International Journal for Equity in Health about Pandemic inequalities: emerging infectious diseases and health equity. It discusses how unequal exposure, susceptibility, transmission and treatment all exacerbate and compound health inequalities associated with infectious diseases.

We can see this in the earlier COVID waves in Australia (omicron is playing out differently, at least partly because it’s so transmissible), where cases clustered in regions and communities and often transmitted through workplaces and social networks unequally.


Bambra, C. (2022). Pandemic inequalities: emerging infectious diseases and health equity. International Journal for Equity in Health, 21(1), 6.

Informal care in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic

An important paper from Lukas Hofstaetter, Sarah Judd-Lam and Grace Cherrington from Carers NSW, which describes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on informal carers in New South Wales.

The experiences of carers documented in this article highlight how pre-existing, systemic shortcomings for carers were worsened by the public health and economic crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. A lack of reliable information and recognition, along with insufficient financial and practical supports, have exacerbated the complexities surrounding the provision of care. Limited access to digital devices, connections, and capabilities have further disadvantaged many carers. In many cases, carers engaged in employment or education have been required to carry out these activities from their homes, often necessitating additional investment in digital devices and connections.A majority of carers, however, rely on income support payments, and the financial costs of caring have also increased at a time when many people are experiencing diminished employment security.

tld;r: carers are more stressed, isolated and financially worse off


Hofstaetter, L., Judd-Lam, S., & Cherrington, G. (2022). Informal care in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Care and Caring.

Reflecting on 2021 for the Australian Journal of Primary Health

The past year has also seen significant changes in academic publishing. There has been an emphasis on rapid dissemination of research findings during the pandemic, increasing the prominence of pre-publication manuscripts and reinforcing the need for timely peer review. There has been a significant increase in the volume of manuscripts submitted, including to the AJPH.

At the same time, it is more difficult than ever to find peer reviewers for submitted articles. There has been a significant increase in the pressures on people’s time, through their paid jobs, but also because of juggling caring responsibilities during multiple lockdowns. Many people have been redeployed to support health systems and organisations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian Government’s decision to not provide any financial support to universities during the pandemic has led to thousands of jobs being lost across the sector over the past year, with more losses likely to come. Precarious employment has become even more entrenched and fewer people are in jobs that include service to the profession as part of their roles. This leads to fewer people being able to undertake reviews at the time we need high-quality peer review most.
— Read on

It’s been a pleasure being an Associate Editor for AJPH, and it was good to have this opportunity to reflect on the pst year with Virginia Lewis and Jenny Macmillan as I’m stepping down.

Ensuring culturally diverse communities aren’t left behind on the road out of COVID

“We are always engaged after there is a problem – never upfront. The damage that has been done is quite severe on the ground and there is a lot of feeling that this is racist”- Randa Kattan, CEO of the Arab Council Australia

Croakey published a comprehensive summary of the think tank workshop hosted by the UNSW School of Population Health and organised by my colleague A/Prof Holly Seale. It features some inspiring practical activities led by culturally diverse communities, and the findings of research from across Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

“This current pandemic again highlights that there is a critical need to ensure services, communication and efforts and other pandemic strategies are designed and delivered in a culturally responsive way,” she said. Seale stressed collaboration with people from CALD backgrounds, including refugee communities, was critical to improving future pandemic plans as well as continuing ongoing COVID-19 activities.

Engage and empower: ensuring culturally diverse communities aren’t left behind on the road out of COVID

CALD Community COVID-19 Think Tank: Enhancing engagement

Monday’s Think Tank, organised by A/Prof Holly Seale and the Multicultural Health Communication Service, was a big success. More than 80 people from four states participated in the webinar and workshop sessions.

Lots of issues were discussed, but some of the recurrent themes were:

  • The critical need for concise, timely, and accessible plain English information for multicultural communities, in order to enable official translations, but also so that commmunities can draw on ths information for ther own communication and messaging.
  • We need to be genuinely working with people and organisations who are already working with CALD communities, and who are trusted by them. In doing this we need to reduce the emphasis on “pushing out” messages, towards more genine dialogue.
  • Emphasise and reocgnise the strength of communities and work that has alrady been done. We also need to recognise that most of this has been voluntary and unpaid – and that resources are needed.
  • While there has been fantastic work done at local and regional levels, there is a still a need for coordination at state and Commonwealth levels.
  • Better information-sharing would reduce duplication of resources, but also enable capacity sharing (culural understanding and advice, translation, interpreting, etc).
  • Written information isn’t enough. Audio and video information is more shareable online, and helps to overcome the complexitiies of written information (too much is still written at a Grade 12 level, needs to be at a Grade 8 level).
  • Speed is critical to combat misinformation.

The next step will be to share a report and the videos from the event, as well as further coverage by Croakey. In the meantime, the tweets below show some of the research and resources that were shared,

Still time to register for Monday’s webinar on Enhancing communication and engagement amongst people from CALD communities with public health strategies

There’s still time to register for this webinar organised by the NSW Multicultural Communication Service and UNSW:

Enhancing communication and engagement amongst people from CALD communities with public health strategies: Lessons learnt & gaps remaining

Mon, September 20, 2021, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST

Please note that the later workshops are now full, but people are very welcome to attend the webinar from 11am-12pm.