Queensland researchers handpicked to join a global COVID-19 forecasting team

Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) researchers have been tapped on the shoulder by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, to join their global COVID-19 Forecasting team.

Led by Dr Alize Ferrari, QCMHR researchers including Dr Ana Maria Mantilla Herrera, Dr Damian Santomauro and Akiaja Lindstrom, will take on the COVID-19 forecasting work for Australia, New Zealand and other locations across the Asia Pacific.

Dr Ferrari said the work will see the group acquire data from countries across the Asia Pacific and analyse it to determine the impact of COVID-19 on health systems in the region.

“Our work will show demand for hospital services at state and country level, including the availability of ventilators, general hospital beds, and ICU beds, as well as daily and cumulative deaths due to COVID-19,” Dr Ferrari said.

“This work is vital to help government agencies and health services effectively respond to COVID-19 and ensure Australians and our neighbours across the Asia-Pacific region are kept safe.”

QCMHR’s Mental Disorders Burden of Disease team already works very closely with IHME, producing all burden of disease estimates for mental disorders in the yearly iterations of the IHME-led Global Burden of Disease Study.

Dr Ferrari said it was this expertise that gave rise to IHME’s invitation to join the global COVID-19 Forecasting team.

“Our expertise in epidemiological modelling and proven ability to work within IHME’s processes and infrastructure, combined with the urgent nature of the COVID-19 forecasting work, made us the ideal team for the job,” Dr Ferrari said.

Dr Ferrari emphasised that the team’s work will not go to waste when the pandemic is over.

“Our goal is to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a case study to enable us to quantify the prevalence of mental disorders for other “shock” scenarios,” she said.

“The methods we develop to understand the social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19 will help gear our team to quantify the impacts of “shocks” such as bushfires, natural disasters and other major events on the mental health of populations in the future.

“We will achieve this by tracking population mental health surveys that measure the impact of COVID-19 on the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders globally and use the data to inform a statistical model which also incorporates the impact of changes in social mobility, gross domestic product, and deaths due to COVID-19 on disorder prevalence over time.

“This capability will mean that next time a major event like a pandemic or natural disaster occurs we won’t be caught off guard – government agencies around the globe will be equipped to plan appropriate mental health service responses in Australia and internationally, leading to improved mental health support for people when they need it most.”

The team’s COVID-19 modelling outputs for the Asia Pacific are routinely fed into analysis run by IHME and made publicly available on their website.

A number of organisations have expressed interest in funding this important work, but more funding is still required. Organisations able to assist can contact Kate Gadenne, Research Development Manager, 0438 727 895.

About QCMHR
The Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research is a partnership between Queensland Health and The University of Queensland via its School of Public Health and Queensland Brain Institute.

Media contact:  Kate Gadenne, Research Development Manager, k.gadenne@uq.edu.au, 0438 727 895.

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