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Success Stories: COVID-19 related Policy and Service Success

INVEST reacted effectively to the sudden needs created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In spring 2020, Professor Christina Salmivalli chaired a 13-member multidisciplinary COVID-19 scientific panel appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Another INVEST member of the panel was Research Professor Heikki Hiilamo. The panel supported the work of the group set up by the Prime Minister to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and provided support in assessing and anticipating the effects of the crisis from the perspectives of social, health, economic and ecological sustainability and the resilience of individuals, communities and society.

Jani Erola, in turn, was invited to an international expert panel “Beyond Covid: Population challenges ahead”, organised in December 2020 by Population Europe.

With a focus on the impact of the corona epidemic on learning and well-being of school children and young people, INVEST psychology researchers studied the experiences of children and youth. The results helped to understand what happened in students’ interaction, mental well-being, and the need for support during the pandemic. School- and municipality-specific summaries of the results were made and these results have helped municipalities and schools to plan support measures and provided important information on the experiences of Finnish children and youth.

Psychology research group also conducted “Did you graduate during the Corona Spring?” – survey in cooperation with the Finnish Upper Secondary School Students ‘Association and the Finnish Vocational School Students’ Association. 5005 answers showed that the exceptional circumstances had caused particular difficulties for young people completing upper secondary education. Based on the results of a study report commissioned by the MEC, the importance of support and teacher relations, student care and youth work during studies were emphasised by the Minister of Science and Culture, in her opening speech for the leaders of Finnish Higher Education Institutions in November 2020.

With the aim of offering a new digital toolkit to help children with Corona Anxiety, INVEST Voimaperheet® (Strongest Families) opened a website for parents whose children develop symptoms of anxiety or fear during the pandemic. The website provides information on anxiety, advise on how to handle difficult feelings and offeres simple exercises to ease the anxiety of a parent and their child. The site is free and open to anyone who is willing to participate in the study, which examines the impact of the provided means on the well-being of parents and children at the population level. The wesite is available in Finnish, Swedish, English, Japanese and Russian.

Our Opintokamu® (“Studypal”) programme, developed for the use of upper secondary schools and vocational schools, offered educational institutions tools for improving student’s well-being. Students of universities of applied sciences in Finland were able to access an online course free of charge. The course has received a lot of positive feedback.

Intending to provide timely policy recommendations proactively, we published a policy brief “The negative effects of the corona crisis on learning, education and well-being among children and adolescents”. The policy brief examined the long-term effects of the corona crisis in terms of transition to home schooling, parental unemployment, families’ need for income support, parent’s relationship problems, the accumulation of deprivation and health effects and it received positive feedback, for example, from the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Additionally, in an effort to provide evidence for policy actors and decision makers, co-PI Satu Helske has contributed to the Government’s ongoing Covid-19 Research Review project assembling the latest scientific knowledge since autumn 2020.

We also participated in international collaboration on the impact of COVID-19. With the survey study ‘Young Adults in Times of COVID-19’ in fourteen countries, researchers aimed to understand how young adults across the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three INVEST research projects received funding from the Academy of Finland’s special call for COVID-19 research:

  • “Future policies for a resilient Nordic model after COVID-19 epidemic” (PI Pasi Moisio);
  • “Artificial Intelligence driven COVID-19 anxiety management intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to prevent the deterioration of mental health consequences under pandemic conditions” (PI André Sourander)
  • “Psychiatric symptoms and service use among children and adolescents before and after the COVID-19 epidemic” (PI David Gyllenberg).