A year later: Penn LDI COVID-19 rapid response research grant projects

A year after the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) created a program of Rapid Response Grants for COVID-19 research, the projects have produced important new insights relevant to current pandemic response, as well as preparations for future infectious disease emergencies.

Nurse in full PPE including a face shield.

The initiative began within days of the federal government’s March 13, 2020, COVID-19 national emergency declaration as LDI began brainstorming ways the Institute could harness the expertise of its Fellows and staff to assist in the emergency response. It sent out requests for proposals to its more than 300 health services researchers. LDI executive director Rachel Werner wrote that proposals “should address population health, health care, and system delivery issues needed to understand and address the current COVID-19 pandemic or improve responses to future infectious disease outbreaks, particularly related to disparities and underserved populations.”

Designed to be conducted and concluded within six months or less, the grants that were announced in the first week of May 2020 covered 13 team projects involving 25 LDI senior and associate fellows. 

The resulting work ran a wide gamut—from a study of deficiencies in health systems’ COVID visitation restriction policies, to an analysis of how Pennsylvania officials were underestimating infection rates. Other projects included a six-state comparison of how conflicting and inaccurate information was impeding the acquisition of critical epidemiological data, and an analysis of how the pandemic changed both the patterns and reporting of child abuse.

Another multistate study of 254 hospitals found that most institutions lacked benchmark patient-to-nurse ratios before the pandemic, and that those working conditions left the institutions ill-prepared to meet the greatly increased demands of the pandemic. A second Rapid Response nursing study drew insights from the experience of the 1918 flu pandemic, underscoring the importance of having an adequate supply of well-educated nurses during such a national medical emergency as well as the need for a central national nurse registration system rather than the current state-based nurse licensing system.

Read more at Penn LDI.