SFU health sciences researcher Julia Smith.

issues and experts

Impact of COVID-19 on gender focus of new study

March 19, 2020

Contact: Julia Smith, Faculty of Health Sciences, 604-837-4285; jhs6@sfu.ca (available until 3:30 pm and after 5:30 pm today)

Melissa Shaw; University Communications and Marketing, 236.880.3297, melissa_shaw@sfu.ca


Simon Fraser University health sciences researcher Julia Smith is co-leading new research on how rapidly developing infectious disease outbreaks like COVID-19 impact gender. “The sex and gendered dynamics of the COVID-19 outbreak so far are anecdotal, but the consequences of sidelining these can limit equitable, effective responses in affected regions, as well as prevention and preparedness efforts globally,” says Smith, who is among new Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) grant recipients announced today.

Co-leading an international team, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. and others from the UK, Hong Kong and Australia, Smith and her team will identify gender-related effects of the outbreak as well as gaps in preparation and response measures, providing guidance and recommendations for those crafting policy and public health interventions.

The researchers will also map out and analyse COVID-19 infections and mortality data to help inform public health responses, decision making and planning and improve policy and public health responses to COVID-19.

“Our findings will contribute to the global response of COVID-19 through strengthening understanding of how individuals and communities understand and react to the disease,” says Smith. The team will develop an online Gender Toolkit to promote gender-related actions driven by policy development, preparedness and response activities.

The CIHR also announced funds today to further SFU molecular biology and biochemistry professor Peter Unrau’s pioneering RNA imaging technology (called Mango), while health sciences professor Kelley Lee earlier received funding to lead international research on strengthening global coordination of the COVID-19 outbreak response.

The SFU research is part of more the than $50 million in new federal funding dedicated to coronavirus researchers across the country.