Imperial College London

Imperial researchers adapt landmark COVID-19 model for young people

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Illustration depicting UK lockdown with 'quarantine' written

A team from Imperial College London, whose COVID-19 model influenced the UK Government's decisions, have written a version aimed at teenagers.

The team in the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease AnalysisJameel Institute at Imperial, have adapted their report for young people after collaborating with Science Journal for Kids and Teens, which is freely available.

The report, titled ‘Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand', shared the mathematical model used to assess the effect of different measures against COVID-19. The report had estimated that without strong suppression, 250,000 people could die of COVID-19 in the UK, and was among those that informed the UK Government’s decision-making.

Since then, the Imperial team have released 12 new reports, informing the public and policymakers with their latest assessment of the pandemic, and are now publishing daily projections of COVID-19’s impact for many countries.   

Helping young people understand COVID-19 

woman scanning food with face shield on
An image of a woman working in a grocery, used in the report for young people to explain what an "essential worker" is.
“Children, just as much as adults, need to take part in social distancing, and we need their consent too. We need them to understand why the world has changed so rapidly as part of their education.”  Report authors

The authors of the report said: “Young people need to understand the spread of COVID-19. Kids are smart  – they know what it’s like to have a cold and how viruses spread. So in principle they know how the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading.”  

The authors re-wrote the original report by steering clear of jargon and making sure that scientific terms were clearly defined. “It was really important that we didn’t come across as patronising, so making sure that young people understand terms such as the 'latent' and 'incubation' period was necessary to making the report work.” 

As part of rethinking the report for a younger audience, the team were guided by the view that young people need to understand the importance of social distancing. “Children, just as much as adults, need to take part in social distancing, and we need their consent too. We need them to understand why the world has changed so rapidly as part of their education.”  

Communicating science to young people 

woman smiling at camera, sea in background

"We wanted to provide more universal access to open science including the work of the College’s COVID-19 Response Team." Dr Sabine van Elsland External Relationships and Communications Manager

Dr Sabine van Elsland, External Relationships and Communications Manager in the School of Public Health, explains that young people are part of the pandemic, and that children are often missed out as an audience when communicating science.   

Sabine said: “Children are part of COVID-19, and just as this pandemic has affected adults, we cannot ignore that it has affected children and young people too. 

"We worked with Science Journal For Kids to make our scientific research accessible to children. Our team provided the scientific report and the journal’s science editor wrote a first draft of the kid’s adaptation. The research team worked closely with the science editor and graphic designer to. The article comes with lesson ideas, questions, a teacher’s key and a glossary of scientific words with their meanings explained.”  

Sabine says that the new report can be used by teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering en Mathematics (STEM) lessons, but also by parents who are currently homeschooling their children. 

Universal access to open science 

“By creating a new, more child-friendly version of this report, we wanted to provide more universal access to open science including the work of the College’s COVID-19 Response Team,” she says.   

“During a pandemic, Government decision makers are supported and informed by research. It is essential that this research is communicated clearly to the wider public." 

Over the coming weeks, the team are working with the Patient Experience Research Centre and public partners (including young people) to make our science more accessible to the general public.

You can read the report for teenagers here.

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Martha Nahar

Martha Nahar
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6708
Email: m.nahar@imperial.ac.uk

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Coronavirus, Research, Comms-strategy-Wider-society, Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits, Public-health
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