The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children’s Health in Portugal: The Parental Perspective

Mariana Poppe, Bárbara Aguiar, Rodrigo Sousa, Paulo Oom

Abstract


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for healthcare services and has led to changes in the usage pattern of the pediatric population. We aimed to describe the impact of COVID-19 on children’s health, wellbeing, and access to medical care in Portugal.
Material and Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study through an anonymous online survey via social media. The collected data refers to a period between the 16th of March and the 17th of May 2020.
Results: We obtained responses to the survey on 19 745 children. Of the previously scheduled outpatient consultations, 54.2% were postponed by healthcare institutions and 21.6% of planned vaccinations were missed. Parents expressed concerns regarding psychological, social, and physical consequences for their children due to the pandemic.
Discussion: The observed reduction of pediatric emergency department visits and the postponement of outpatient consultations and vaccine administrations are potentially harmful for non-COVID patients. The current pandemic and the imposed social distance might have an important negative impact on the mental health of children.
Conclusion: Further studies are necessary to fully comprehend the outcomes of the decreased access to medical care, as well as the collateral damage for children beyond the clinical aspects of the pandemic. Defining strategies regarding the urge to vaccinate children and not postpone urgent evaluations should be a public health priority.


Keywords


Child; Coronavirus Infections; COVID-19; Health Care Quality, Access, and Evaluation; Health Impact Assessment; Pandemics; Pediatrics

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