PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Long Covid, a new condition that can affect people’s ability to work and carry on with regular life, affects millions of people around the world but remains poorly understood. To meet the challenges brought on by this emerging syndrome, the Brown University School of Public Health is launching a Long Covid initiative that will bring together researchers, clinicians, and experts in policy as well as strategic communications, to rapidly study and communicate the significant impact of Long Covid on people, communities, workplaces, healthcare, and society as a whole.
“The pandemic’s devastating death toll has meant that we have at times been slow to acknowledge the growing number of people living with continued complications from COVID-19,” says Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, Dean of the Brown School of Public Health. “Every third Covid-19 patient still experiences at least one symptom weeks or months after becoming infected. For some people, Long Covid is so disruptive they can no longer work or manage family responsibilities. We urgently need a better understanding of how Long Covid affects people and systems, so our programs and policies can meet this new reality.”
Led by Dean Jha and fellow pandemic expert and Associate Dean for Strategy & Innovation Dr. Megan Ranney, the Long Covid initiative will tap into the School’s unique expertise and partner with the Warren Alpert Medical School, its affiliated hospitals, and the Rhode Island Department of Health. It expands on a recent initiative by the National Institutes of Health, which focuses on studying the clinical aspects of Long Covid, and acknowledgements such as the Biden administration’s July announcement that people with Long Covid can qualify for disability under federal law.
“I see Long Covid patients frequently in the ER – although they don’t know to call it that. The lasting effects of this disease can be life altering,” says Dr. Ranney. “Long Covid will have a profound impact on our society for years, if not for generations. By investing in closing knowledge gaps, adapting clinical approaches and workplace policies, and improving attention to equity, we can improve our collective ability to more effectively manage the long-term effects of the pandemic.”
Specifically, the Brown School of Public Health Long Covid initiative will:
- Synthesize and share emerging evidence on the clinical and epidemiologic aspects of Long Covid.
- Synthesize and share emerging evidence on the social and economic impact of Long Covid.
- Develop expert consensus on what is known, and where better evidence is most urgently needed.
- Generate knowledge to fill evidence gaps, with a focus on the social and economic impact of Long Covid.
- Apply an equity lens to all aspects of the work. Given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color, Long Covid, too, may be affecting Black and brown Americans more than whites. The project will specifically call out where data and information on any minorities is missing, and collaborate to generate and synthesize such evidence on how Long Covid affects all populations.
- Evaluate emerging policies and develop policy recommendations for health system leaders, employers, and federal, state and local health policy makers and others.
- Provide employers with tools to appropriately work with impacted employees.
- Develop a web and social media platform to share knowledge, news and latest evidence, and to engage experts, practitioners, policy makers, media representatives and the general public in conversations and learning about Long Covid.
Funding for the first year of the Long Covid initiative has been provided by the Hassenfeld Foundation. The Brown School of Public Health is committed to expanding the scope and funding of this important work as part of its larger efforts on pandemic preparedness and responses.
“The pandemic will end, but Long Covid is here to stay,” said co-director Orestis Panagiotou, assistant professor of health services, policy and practice. “It is essential we study it, understand who is affected, and what the direct and indirect impacts will be for patients, their families and caregivers, and health systems.”
“We expect that historically marginalized or vulnerable communities will bear a disproportionate burden of Long Covid and may experience greater barriers to care,” said co-director Laura Chambers, adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology and postdoctoral research fellow. “It is especially important that we partner with communities to define best practices and policy recommendations for supporting people with Long Covid and ensuring access to affordable and high-quality care.”