Leading GCU researchers play key role in COVID-19 public health response

GCU School of Health and Life Sciences’ Professors Sharon Hutchinson and David Goldberg have been at the heart of major research which has provided important epidemiological insights on COVID-19 to aid the public health response.

Two research papers were recently published in prestigious journals. The studies were carried out at Public Health Scotland by the Epidemiology Research Cell, led by Professor Helen Colhoun at Edinburgh University and Professor Hutchinson, on behalf of the COVID-19 Intelligence, Research and Development Programme, chaired by Professor Goldberg.

The first was published in PLOS Medicine which showed that, along with being older and male, severe COVID-19 disease is strongly associated with past medical history across all age groups in Scotland.

It was also found that residents in care homes were 21 times more likely to develop severe disease than people of the same age and sex not living in care homes in Scotland.

The conditions found to be associated with increased risk include, not only those already designated by public health agencies such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, disabling neurological disease, kidney disease, but other diagnoses that are associated with frailty and poor health such as strokes and a history of falls.

The second paper published in the British Medical Journal found that healthcare workers and members of their household contributed a sixth of COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital among working age adults in Scotland during the first wave.

Researchers discovered that patient-facing healthcare workers and their household members had three-fold and two-fold increased risks of admission to hospital with COVID-19, respectively.

Professor Hutchinson said: “These important research findings have been generated through a collaborative arrangement initiated by Public Health Scotland with academics from Edinburgh, GCU, Glasgow and Strathclyde to support the national response to COVID-19.

“Using Scotland’s capability for linking electronic health records, we reported the first systematic nationwide studies evaluating the risk of COVID-19 disease with pre-existing health conditions and among healthcare workers and their household contacts.

“Our findings from the first wave in Scotland can inform policy and practice to protect those at most risk of COVID-19 disease in the event of a resurgent pandemic.”

Professor Goldberg added:  “The publication of these studies in leading medical journals are testament to the major contribution that Scotland can make to an evidenced-based response to the pandemic, and demonstrates the importance of public health agencies working in partnership with academia to inform and evaluate efforts.”

View the PLOS Medicine research paper entitled ‘Rapid Epidemiological Analysis of Comorbidities and Treatments as risk factors for COVID-19 in Scotland (REACT-SCOT): A population-based case-control study’ here and the British Medical Journal paper entitled ‘Risk of hospital admission with coronavirus disease 2019 in healthcare workers and their households: nationwide linkage cohort study’ here.

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