Thematic projects

The thematic projects look at ways in which cooperation can effectively help address the multiple challenges posed by this COVID-19 crisis across the NPA programme area.

New:

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), has had a very significant impact on the NPA region as a whole. However, this experience of the pandemic has been strikingly different in comparison to more densely populated regions and particularly urban settings. This is not apparent unless geographic specific breakdowns in terms of cases and deaths associated with COVID-19 are examined and interpreted from a public health and clinical perspective. Our clinical team, in collaboration with international colleagues, has been publishing daily comparative data across EU and NPA countries since the beginning of the outbreak on #COVIDWATCHIRL (averaging 30,000 impressions daily since March) and the web https://www.ul.ie/covid-home/covidwatchirl.

In  the project "Local, national and transnational public health responses and comparative clinical data across the NPA region: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA”, through a collaboration with clinical teams across the NPA region, we will provide regularly updated comparative data with clinical interpretation between those NPA and non-NPA regions on a country by country basis: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT. We will also retrospectively map the public health responses and interventions used by different NPA regions and countries in the first wave of the COVID-19 and explore how these measures have influenced the individual pandemic curves of these countries: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE.

The first objective of any response to this pandemic must be to protect lives, but past that point the ultimate objective must be keep COVID-19 virus activity in society as low as possible and find a way for countries and regions to return safely to economic and social functioning. This is vital in order to minimise further collateral damage from COVID-19 for individuals and populations. The collaborative transnational data collection infrastructure COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA will deliver, has the potential to be vitally important to inform countries and regions as they try to navigate their way through the lifting of restrictions in the next phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead Partner

School of Medicine, University of Limerick, Limerick Ireland

Contact Details:
Prof Liam Glynn, 061-202812, liam.glynn@ul.ie

Partners

  1. University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  2. Akureyri Hospital, Iceland
  3. Lakehead University, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Canada

Associated partners

  1. University of Eastern Finland, Finland
  2. Ulster University, Northern Ireland, UK
  3. NHS Highland, Scotland, UK
  4. University of New England, Maine, USA

Project Duration

Sept 1st to Dec 31st, 2020
Grant Reference # 411

Common Territorial Challenges Tackled by this Project

The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, first appeared in the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019. As of 28 June 2020, there have been 9,843,073 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 495,760 deaths, reported to WHO, who have declared a global pandemic. Most NPA regions and countries have suffered substantial loss of life and health since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and in addition there has been significant collateral damage in terms of the economies of these countries. We already know that health and economics are highly intertwined and these are the common territorial challenges that will be tackled by this COVID-19 project under the “Clinical theme”. What is already evident is that the pattern of spread of COVID-19 and associated mortality and morbidity has varied greatly from region to region. Some regions and countries appear to have been much more successful in their public health responses and in reducing the effects of COVID-19 on society at large. We are likely to see a significant re-emergence of COVID-19 in NPA regions and countries over the coming months particularly as we enter the next “flu season” towards the end of this year. It is vital therefore that we learn as much as possible about the way the virus has spread and the public health responses that have been most successful in combating the virus. This is relevant to every single NPA region and country without exception. As countries struggle to plot the best way forward, COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA, our project proposal under the “Clinical theme” will provide a mechanism for transnational working and cooperation and the sharing of data and learnings from the pandemic. With a large team of partners across NPA regions we will engage with, and feedback to, relevant health, public health and government stakeholders. Within country differences will be elucidated to facilitate a more tailored approach to the lifting of restrictions that are already under way in many countries.

Project’s Approach

What has happened in China, Taiwan, Singapore and New Zealand demonstrates that an effective and aggressive public health response including quarantine, social distancing, and isolation of infected populations can contain the COVID-19 epidemic. However, the most successful combination of elements and the way in which they are deployed within this public health response has yet to be established. Our project proposal under the “Clinical theme”, COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA, is a novel approach to collect, in conjunction with our clinical partner teams, retrospective and prospective data to inform the path forward for countries and regions in the NPA as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our clinical team, in collaboration with international colleagues, has been publishing daily comparative data across EU and NPA countries since the beginning of the outbreak on #COVIDWATCHIRL (averaging 30,000 impressions daily since March) and the web https://www.ul.ie/covid-home/covidwatchirl. (Please see additional attachments for more detail) In “COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA”, through a collaboration with clinical teams across the NPA region, we will provide regularly updated comparative data with clinical interpretation between those NPA and non-NPA regions on a country by country basis: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT. We will also retrospectively map the public health responses and interventions used by different NPA regions and countries in the first wave of the COVID-19: COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE. This will allow us, through our monthly meetings with the NPA COVID-19 Umbrella group and through our final report to the NPA secretariat and our data that we release to the general public, to make recommendations for future actions and policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transnational cooperation

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus disease. This means that no knowledge about this virus existed before it appeared in the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019. As a result, every country and region is struggling to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to mount an effective public health response to the virus and minimise the harmful effects of the virus in regard to the health of our populations and the economies of our regions and countries. It is apparent that a “One-size-fits-all” solution is not appropriate particularly in the context of the emergence of second waves of COVID-19 but only the regional and country data provided by COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT will be able to demonstrate this on an ongoing basis. We will collect this data across the NPA regions using open and closed data sources in conjunction with our partner clinical teams. We will utilize our team of clinical and non-clinical partners to interpret this data. We will then feedback this data to the NPA COVID-19 Umbrella group, the NPA secretariat and the populations, healthcare systems and policy makers across the NPA in order to inform the best possible approach to the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE will retrospectively map the public health responses and interventions in different NPA regions and countries to explore their influence on the individual countries’ pandemic curves. This comparative data will be of vital importance as countries and regions try to navigate their way through the lifting of restrictions in the next phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project Focus

Project objectives, expected result and main outputs

COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA will address the “Clinical” aspects of the NPA COVID-19 call. This project will bring together a group of expert clinicians, disease modellers and other relevant stakeholders from across the NPA, to develop a collaborative transnational data collection infrastructure. This infrastructure will map prospectively and clinically interpret the future course of the pandemic throughout the NPA region and compare retrospectively the effects of the different public health responses taken by respective countries to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. This proposal will be led by this #COVIDWATCHIRL clinical project team who have been mapping the pandemic in Europe (Figure 1 below) and beyond via social media (1.2 million impressions in the first 28 days of the pandemic) and the web (https://www.ul.ie/covid-home/covidwatchirl). As countries struggle to plot the best way forward, COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA will provide a mechanism for transnational working and cooperation and the sharing of data and learnings from the pandemic. Within country differences will be elucidated to facilitate a more tailored approach to the lifting of restrictions that are already under way in many countries. It is apparent that a “One-size-fits-all” solution is not appropriate particularly in the context of the emergence of second waves of COVID-19 but only the regional and country data provided by COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT will be able to demonstrate this on an ongoing basis. COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE will retrospectively map the public health responses and interventions in different NPA regions and countries to explore their influence on the individual countries’ pandemic curves. This comparative data will be of vital importance as countries and regions try to navigate their way through the lifting of restrictions in the next phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. First and foremost, this will need to be based on a coherent and sustainable public health response which has cross-sectoral implications for the entire NPA programme. Regular and timely data from COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA will connect with, and inform, the overall umbrella NPA COVID-19 Response group and the NPA programme as a whole. In addition, a public facing presentation of relevant data will be transmitted to the general public across NPA countries via the web and social media in an effort to drive the significant public health response needed globally to combat COVID-19. The collaborative approach delivered by COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA across regions and countries will identify the unique advantages and disadvantages that NPA regions possess in the fight against COVID-19. The proposal will facilitate the development of a coherent, cooperative and data-driven response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will inform future NPA projects as well as the programming process of the NPA 2021-2027 in a world living with COVID-19.

Work Package Summary

The University of Limerick will lead the management group, hire staff and external experts, develop communication with all partners and collate all project data. We will liaise with and report to the Umbrella Project at monthly meetings. The final report will be prepared for the NPA Secretariat. Norwegian and Icelandic partners will contribute to key initial work on international data definitions and collection methods. The management group will also include international collaboration with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the University of New England which will broaden outlook and dissemination strengths. As per the Gantt chart, the management group will meet weekly to ensure timely completion of deliverables and regular feedback and synergy with the umbrella NPA COVID-19 Response group. Norwegian and Icelandic partners and associate partners from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Finland will provide access to key data collection processes relevant in their respective jurisdictions to facilitate timely data collection for COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT and COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE.

Monthly clinical data interpretation and posting of COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA REPORT and bi-monthly public health response reporting of COVIDWATCH-EU-NPA RESPONSE will be coordinated by the lead partner. Data and experiences across the different NPA territories will be shared to identify public health responses, regional and national, that have shaped more successful outcomes for populations enduring the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific expertise will also be contracted in as needed to ensure completion of deliverables. The management group, through the chair, Prof Liam Glynn, will work interactively with the umbrella with regular online communication and monthly meetings. Key findings will be disseminated digitally to the umbrella group, NPA Secretariat and key stakeholders across the NPA region.

The Re-MIND project (Impact from COVID-19 Isolation on Mental Health in NPA Regions) will review public health initiatives across the NPA for evidence of good practice and respective monitoring systems to systematically identify practices. Some practices will be generic and others will have been tailored to local needs and will have innovative aspects that can be applied elsewhere. The thematic areas are interrelated, requiring interdisciplinary solutions and input from academia, health, and technology. There will be considerable benefits for countries and regions in sharing these strategic plans across the NPA.

The Re-MIND project will undertake : (1) a literature review (2) collate strategic plans and policy documents from national and regional public health departments; (3) network with and interview key stakeholder groups and experts across the NPA; and (4) compile a report of their findings. Throughout this process, the project consortium will build up contacts through the NPA COVID19 response group and work with the 'umbrella team'.

Lead Partner

Ulster University, Northern Ireland

Contact details:
Gerard Leavey, Director, Bamford Centre for Mental Health & Wellbeing
Mob. 07801254924, g.leavey@ulster.ac.uk

Partners

  1. Skellefteå Municipality, Sweden
  2. Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  3. University of Eastern Finland, Nursing department, Finland
  4. Limerick City and County Council, Ireland
  5. Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, Faroe Islands
  6. NHS Western Isles, Scotland

Associated partners

  1. Institute of Public Health in Ireland
  2. University of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
  3. Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland
  4. Icelandic Psychological Association

There has been an upsurge in the use of technology solutions across the NPA, solutions that have been attempting to reduce the effects of COVID-19. These include attempting to reduce demand for other services, protection of vulnerable people such as apps for wellbeing, using technology for test/trace of cases and technology to enable social distancing.

The TechSolns project (Impact on COVID-19 from Technology Solutions in NPA Regions) will report on the effectiveness of technological solutions across the NPA through

  • sharing good practices
  • making recommendations and assessing how e-health/technology solutions have been put in place during the pandemic lockdown
  • how technological solutions have been brought to groups who need them
  • technology best practice will be studied
  • review technology innovation with a low threshold which could be fast-tracked for future pandemic waves.

It is expected the TechSolns project, like the previously approved NPA COVID-19 response projects, will help form a coherent insight into COVID-19 effects in the NPA area, and provide lessons for the next NPA programme 2021-2027.

Lead partner

Ulster University, Northern Ireland

Contact Details:
Professor Joan Condell FHEA FCHERP
Distinguished Teaching and Learning Support Fellowship
School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems
E: j.condell@ulster.ac.uk
T: 07955813249
W: www.ulster.ac.uk/staff/j-condell

Partners

  1. Nemlia LLC, Faroe Islands
  2. University of Oulu, Finland
  3. Centre for Rural Medicine – Region Västerbotten, Sweden

Associated partners

  1. Medicines Optimisation Innovation Centre, Northern Ireland
  2. University of Limerick, School of Medicine Ireland
  3. Healthcare Analytics Limited, Northern Ireland
  4. Interactive Health Ltd., Scotland
  5. Kraydel Ltd, Northern Ireland
  6. Centria University of Applied Sciences, R&D - Wellbeing and Entrepreneurship, Finland
  7. Norwegian Centre for Rural Medicine (NCRM), University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway
  8. NHS Highland, Scotland
  9. Akureyri Hospital, Iceland
  10. Institute of Public Health in Ireland
  11. Wyld Networks Ltd, United Kingdom

"Communities' response and resilience to corona virus 19 (CRR - COVID19)"project addresses Theme “D” of the NPA COVID 19 response call - "Citizens engagement - Community response".

The project aims to examine the impact, resilience, and responses to COVID19 in the NPA area on a community level. The CRR -COVID19 project is structured into four community groups (CG):

  • Citizens' responses including human rights considerations.
  • Families and schooling, their readiness for tele-solutions.
  • Health-care providers and user readiness for tele-solutions and practical arrangement to secure safe healthcare.
  • Regional - county authorities assessing the impact of COVID19 and policy responses aiming at sustainable recovery.

The four community groups will explore through tailored community questionnaires leading to insights, best practices utilised during the Covid-19 pandemic in the NPA area and make recommendations for the future NPA.

Contact

Ninetta Chaniotou, Regional Council of Kainuu
Ninetta.Chaniotou@kainuu.fi

Partners

  • University of Oulu, Finland
  • Rural Area Partnership, Northern Ireland
  • NHS Western Isles, Scotland
  • Leitrim County Council, Ireland
  • British Red Cross, Shetland, Scotland
  • Baltic Sea Cluster Development Centre, Denmark.

Associated Partners

  • Derry City & Strabane District Council, Northern Ireland
  • Faroese Agricultural Agency, Faroe Islands