An intervention to teach self-management skills for persisting symptoms of COVID-19: Minimizing impact of symptoms on everyday functioning and on healthcare usage/utilization – A randomized controlled trial

Green, Robin E | $330,562

Ontario University Health Network 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

After a COVID‑19 infection, more than 75% of patients report ongoing symptoms. Even in young people who are otherwise healthy and physically fit, these ongoing symptoms can develop and persist. These symptoms are concerning, because they can lower quality of life and stop people from returning to work. The symptoms themselves can be grouped into three types: (1) “somatic”, including fatigue, headache, sleep issues, and respiratory/breathing problems, (2) “cognitive”, such as symptoms of “brain fog” that make it harder to maintain attention or remember important information, and (3) “psychiatric”, such as depression and anxiety (which can have a negative impact on mood). Making the effects of symptoms even more consequential is the “vicious circle” that often occurs, whereby one symptom exacerbates another. For example, if after COVID‑19 patients have trouble falling asleep, this can then lead to mood-related problems, which can worsen brain fog. At this time, we need research to help develop treatments that limit the impact of these symptoms on people who have had COVID-19. Our intervention will provide people with increased knowledge and skills about how to manage symptoms, reducing the negative impact of symptoms on people’s everyday lives. It may also help to reduce how often people must visit the doctor or go to the hospital, at a time when our healthcare system is already under extreme pressure. Our early research has shown that group-based education, which we deliver over the internet using videoconferencing, is of benefit. What we need to learn now, through a bigger study that involves more patients, is how effective this education is compared to simply having social support. This is the goal of our study, and it can help us fight COVID‑19 by reducing the impact of its enduring symptoms.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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