Family research in a post-COVID world
The Victorian Intergenerational Health Cohort Study (VIHCS) is a study of the children of participants in a 28-year longitudinal study of health and social development from adolescence into midlife, the Victorian Adolescent Health Study (VAHCS). VIHCS was designed to examine how the social, emotional, educational and financial assets parents bring to pregnancy predict patterns of emotional, physical, social, and cognitive development in their children. This wave of the study interviews eight-year-old children and their families in a one-hour face to face assessment of mental and physical health, including body measurements and sample collection.
As for many research projects, the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed approaches to data collection. VIHCS family assessments for this wave had mainly been conducted onsite at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Limits on hospital access, hospital screening protocols, lockdown restrictions and reluctance of families to bring their families into a hospital environment in the midst of a pandemic brought a re-think of the data collection protocol.
The VIHCS team worked with many groups across the Melbourne Children’s campus to develop a protocol that was safe for families and research staff, conducting the bulk of the interview as a phone/telehealth appointment with a brief 20-minute home visit assessment designed to collect crucial face to face measurements.The new home visit assessment protocol has the research assistant coaching parents to self-collect their child’s measurements from a distance, as well as detailed screening processes, personal protective equipment for staff and families and rigorous sanitising protocols.
Families have been keen to take part in the new home visits, citing the convenience of being assessed in their own home and confidence in the COVIDSafe protocols that have been put in place by the team. This VIHCS family have taken part in this wave of the study with all four of their children, and found that this year’s home visit with their youngest child was the easiest to take part in.
More information about the Victorian Intergenerational Health Cohort Study here: www.mcri.edu.au/research/projects/2000-stories