Experts on the Consequences of COVID-19: The Pandemic Gives Impetus to Science and Technology
The Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Centre and HSE University, in cooperation with the World Bank, held the conference ‘New Challenges of Demographic, Epidemiological and Medical-Technological Development: Search for New Models of Healthcare Development.’ The participants discussed whether the healthcare system was prepared to face the pandemic, how the latter affected lifespans and excess mortality rates, whether we can trust statistics, and what we should do to see ‘the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.’
‘We would like to find the right answers and participate in the search for solutions,’ said HSE Vice Rector Lilia Ovcharova in her opening remarks. Renaud Seligmann, World Bank Country Director for the Russian Federation, believes that the pandemic has been both a disaster and a challenge, and has demonstrated the connection between social and material inequality and health rates. At the same time, it has spurred research and accelerated the implementation of advanced technologies in healthcare, which has made it possible to change the model of care for patients with COVID and chronic illnesses.
In his report ‘Principal patterns of excess mortality and life expectancy losses across developed countries in 2020,’ Vladimir Shkolnikov, Academic Supervisor of the International Laboratory for Population and Health, noted that Russia, the USA, and Eastern European countries have seen a sharp growth in excess mortality, while Japan, New Zealand, and Denmark experienced a decline.
The reduction in life expectancies in Russia and the United States is almost equal. There was a higher mortality rate among young people in some Eastern European countries and the Unities States during the pandemic. Among the causes of excess mortality in Russia, Vladimir Shkolnikov named a relatively weak healthcare system, insufficient promotion of a healthy lifestyle and, as a consequence, worse health among elderly citizens than in Europe and the USA.
Evgeniy Andreev, Head of the International Laboratory for Population and Health at HSE University, presented the report ‘Demographic consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic in Russia’ and spoke about sources of information on the course of the pandemic. He pointed out that the number of cases and deaths varied considerably from region to region and source to source. Mr. Andreev believes that the reason for this lies in the fact that statistics are seen as a reporting tool rather than a reliable source of information. ‘No one wants to be the worst or show the poorest scores, as this may lead to administrative punishment,’ he explained. ‘You are right that information is seen as a report on the work completed, rather than data needed to plan further actions,’ Lilia Ovcharova agreed.
Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Research Director at the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, outlined the theme of his presentation as: 'What needs to change? How must we prepare for the next pandemic?’ He sees inequality in access to healthcare as a systemic problem. In his opinion, it is important to identify people who could be classified as poor and who lead a high-risk lifestyle and to provide them with more comfortable life conditions. Analysis of the healthcare situation in 40 countries showed that even rapid and decisive anti-pandemic measures and considerable internal medical capacity were not sufficient to effectively counter the pandemic. The most important factor, says Martin McKee, is widespread testing. ‘If a significant number of people get tested and know whether they are infected, they will understand the threat level and work together with the government,’ he believes.
Prof. Vasily Vlassov of the Department of Health Care Administration and Economics at HSE University presented a report entitled ‘Is good science enough for good preparedness?’ In particular, he spoke about the importance of admitting mistakes. Prof. Vlassov reminded the audience that when the pandemic began, the WHO did not talk about the need to wear masks and did not admit that this was an erroneous approach. Conversely, the requirement to wear gloves in public places turned out to be ill-advised.
We need to foster people’s trust so that we can act together as a country
Liliya Ovcharova pointed out the need to unify health and social care and to put an end to confrontation in the development and production of vaccines. Martin McKee agreed that an agreement on vaccines is needed, saying that there needs to be more transparency and that there should be production facilities in many middle- and low-income nations. In a world where rich countries can provide extra vaccine doses while developing countries cannot ensure even a 10% vaccination rate, there will be no end to the pandemic.
According to Prof. Jeffrey Braithwaite, Professor of Health Systems Research at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia), the pandemic has highlighted the social aspects of medicine. ‘We should strengthen public health preparedness for the next pandemic, invest more in it, because we were unprepared for the coronavirus,’ said Prof. Braithwaite.
Prof. Sergey Shishkin, Director of the Centre for Health Policy at HSE University and moderator of the session, summarized by saying ‘We have moved several steps forward in understanding the situation.’
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The 11th International LCSR Workshop of the HSE Ronald F. Inglehart Laboratory for Comparative Social Research, ‘Recent Advances in Comparative Study of Values’, took place as part of the XXIII Yasin (April) International Academic Conference. HSE News Service talked about the study of values and current changes in academic life with Ronald Fischer, who presented an honorary paper ‘Why We Should Aim for Systematic Non-Invariance in Cross-Cultural Research’ at the workshop.
Psychologists from HSE University have joined their peers from Ekaterinburg to look into the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Russian doctors. They found that medical staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression more often than before. The results of the study were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The outbreak of the pandemic posed some serious challenges to the world that required the concentration of many people’s efforts and the use of the latest technologies. This has led to powerful technological breakthroughs, particularly in medicine. HSE University researchers Leonid Grinin, Anton Grinin, and Andrey Korotayev published a paper in which they assessed the impact of COVID-19 on social development. The authors concluded that the pandemic will considerably accelerate humanity’s transition to a new stage of development, but can also cause significant social strain.
At the start of the pandemic, countries over the world struggled to provide a high-quality combination of online and in-person education. What’s more, low-income families have had fewer opportunities to arrange education for their children. These issues were the topic of the open seminar on ‘International Experience: Lessons for Schools After the Stress of the Pandemic’ hosted by the HSE University Institute of Education.
Researchers from the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences have proposed a mathematical model that describes the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into account the restrictions applied in different countries. The model will help governments make reasonable and timely decisions on introducing or lifting restrictions. The paper was published in Eurasian Economic Review.
In October, HSE University held the 10th Conference of Civil Society Researchers, organized by the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Nonprofit Sector. The main topic of this anniversary forum was ‘The impact of the crisis on the development of the nonprofit sector and citizen self-organization in Russia: New realities and prospects’. The conference was co-organized by the Association "European University for Volunteering" (EUV) and the United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV), a long-time partner of the centre.
The conference on Philosophy and Culture in Time of Pandemics ran from September 30 to 2 October 2021. It was divided into seven sessions held in a hybrid format. The organizers and participants discussed major topics such as social transformation during the pandemic, the role of mass media in shaping perceptions of the pandemic, and the epistemological and ethical issues that have arisen as a result.
The pandemic has forced many companies to rethink their approach to charity and to change their priorities in terms of corporate social responsibility. Meeting the needs of the elderly, women, and people with disabilities is a top priority, and the social agenda is becoming a key part of HSE University’s educational programmes. These topics were discussed at the business dialogue on Corporate Social Responsibility Beyond COVID-19 hosted by the HSE Graduate School of Business.