COVID-19 Health Research Priorities

How the COVID-19 Health Research Priorities will be used for OHDP applications: 

Applications for access to OHDP will be assessed by the Ministry of Health for their alignment to the COVID-19 Research Priorities. This will help ensure that OHDP research can support decision-makers and other health system partners with timely, actionable insights that improve the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overview of the COVID-19 Health Research Priorities: 

The COVID-19 Health Research Priorities provides guidance on the key health research priorities in relation to Ontario’s COVID-19 response.  The research priorities reflect collective input from the Ministry of Health including COVID-19 advisory committees, Ontario Health, Public Health Ontario. 

All analyses should include consideration of population sub-groups, for example: sex, gender, and sexual orientation; people with high risk clinical characteristics; people with physical and/or mental health disabilities; Indigenous peoples and communities; immigrants and refugees; ethno-racial communities; Francophone communities; linguistic communities; religious/faith communities; homeless people; people living on a low income; people receiving social assistance; people using drugs; and people living in rural/remote or inner urban areas. 

Note that the full COVID-19 Research Priorities Framework includes more detailed key questions under each research theme and is available upon request from the Research Planning and Management Unit at the Ministry of Health (ResearchUnit@ontario.ca). The COVID-19 Research Priorities will continue to evolve over time and be refined as new information, gaps and priorities emerge.

Research Themes: 

Research Theme 1:
Understanding the Disease

This research theme focuses on understanding the virus and the resulting disease, including severity (symptoms, mechanism of action, and resulting functional changes in the body), and the immune response. 

Research Theme 2: 
Transmission

This research theme focuses on understanding the virus’s incubation period and period of communicability, including asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission. This theme also focuses on understanding the transmissibility of the virus and specific modes of transmission (i.e., aerosol versus droplet).

Research Theme 3:
Case Testing and Surveillance

This research theme focuses on understanding the best mix of population level testing and surveillance strategies including symptomatic testing alongside passive, active, sentinel and syndromic surveillance approaches. This theme also focuses on understanding the impact of test turn-around time on contact tracing and disease spread. Areas of interest include analysis of various types of tests, testing levels and targeting strategies.

Research Theme 4:
Disease Management

This research theme focuses on understanding disease symptoms and diagnostics, such as, laboratory detection methods and their accuracy; radiology; co-infections and/or alternate diagnoses, the course of the disease and prognosis, including longer term effects. This theme also focuses on understanding how to triage patients and prioritize specific treatments and patient care. For example, therapeutics and other medications, ventilators, respirators, the most effective models of care including specific treatment options and the outcomes associated with various disease management approaches.

Research Theme 5:
Health Equity and Vulnerable Populations

This research theme focuses on understanding health equity considerations for vulnerable populations groups and the potential disproportionate impacts on populations vulnerable to COVID-19. Vulnerable populations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic include consideration of population sub-groups, for example, sex, gender, and sexual orientation; people with high-risk clinical characteristics; people with physical and/or mental health disabilities; Indigenous peoples and communities; immigrants and refugees; ethno-racial communities; Francophone communities; linguistic communities; religious/faith communities; homeless people; people living on a low income; people receiving social assistance; people using drugs; and people living in rural/remote or inner urban areas.

Research Theme 6:
Public Health Measures

This research theme focuses on understanding the most efficient and effective containment and re-opening strategies. As well the interactions between various strategies, and compliance with containment strategies in different settings, and among different population groups. This theme also focuses on understanding the optimal COVID-19 vaccination strategies, including targeting, messaging, access and roll out across the population. Analysis should consider the required conditions for various stages of re-opening, the interdependencies, and the health and well-being impacts of closing and re-opening. Analysis should also consider the interaction with influenza and other respiratory viruses.

Research Theme 7:
Infection, Prevention and Control in Specific Settings

This research theme focuses on approaches to prevent and control infections for patients and health care workers, both medical and non-medical staff. For example, effective interventions and practices, best practices for isolation and quarantine, virtual care, mask wearing, etc., in settings of interest. Such settings of interest are pre-hospital paramedical/ ambulatory services, hospitals, primary care, long-term care, home care, retirement homes, corrections, medical laboratories and specimen collection centres (SCCs), congregate living communities (for example, shelters, halfway homes, group homes, remote, rural and First Nations communities).

This theme also focuses on approaches to prevent and manage infections for the general population in non-healthcare settings (for example, parks, restaurants, etc.).

Research Theme 8:
Frontline Workers

This research theme focuses on understanding the physical and psychological impact of COVID-19 on frontline workers, both health care and non-health care. This includes their needs and effective responses to meet those needs. This research theme also focuses on understanding the health frontline workers resourcing needs during surges and peaks.

Research Theme 9:
Supply Chain

This research theme focuses on understanding the processes and strategies needed to improve the allocation and supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and drugs to support the COVID-19 response.

Research Theme 10:
Data Analytics, Modeling and Measurement

This research theme focuses on leveraging data and mathematical models to help inform decisions in responding to COVID-19. This could include modelling: trajectory and waves of COVID-19, transmission (who and how people are infected), impacts of public health measures, impacts of testing and surveillance, health system capacity (including time horizon for recovery and longer term impacts); mortality; and economics (direct (e.g., job loss) and indirect (borrowing and lending). 

For more details

To learn more about the COVID-19 Research Priorities Framework and the detailed key questions related to each research theme, please get in touch with the Research Planning and Management Unit at the Ministry of Health (ResearchUnit@ontario.ca)

Date modified: 2020-09-22