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COVID-19 research in APPLE schools

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world, leading to drastic measures to limit the spread of the virus. These measures included closure of schools and orders to stay home for many weeks. Although these measures are necessary to prevent the virus from spreading, they also created a lot of hardship, particularly among school-aged children. This research builds on our 12 year partnership with a program called APPLE Schools (http://www.appleschools.ca/) which delivers a very successful intervention to promote healthy living and mental health to vulnerable kids from disadvantaged settings and currently operates in 74 elementary schools in northern Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Northwest Territories. In 2018 we collected data on lifestyle behaviours and mental health in 16 schools from northern communities. Together with APPLE Schools, we propose research that collects information on children’s mental health (mood, feelings, self-esteem), sleep, diet, physical activity, screen time and how these things may have changed after COVID-19 school closures. We will also ask questions about health-related school programming to find out what worked and what did not. This will help us understand what we can do to improve student supports offered by schools. As we are anticipating repeat school closures to contain COVID-19 and other outbreaks, the knowledge from this study has direct links to the re-opening efforts. The findings can be implemented immediately in schools across Canada and beyond.