The unit, based at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), aims to provide support to the health and care services regionally and nationally who are supporting people affected by COVID-19.
The project seeks to address the long-term challenge of population health and wellbeing as the country recovers from the pandemic.
Professor Robert Copeland, director for AWRC, said: "There is already a huge effort underway regionally and nationally to support and help rehabilitate people who have been affected directly or indirectly by Covid-19 – with services facing a significant increase in demand. We want to support that effort".
He said the AWRC will be uniquely placed to support existing services by providing the evidence of what works - and what doesn’t.
Professor Copeland added: "Through our networks and expertise, we can make a meaningful and sustainable difference to the physical and psychological health of people in our region and to support economic growth post-pandemic."
Across Sheffield around 600 people have suffered acute Covid-19 symptoms requiring intensive care treatment. Thousands more have experienced milder symptoms but still require some form of recovery and rehabilitation support.
A further group of people living with long-term conditions who have not contracted Covid-19 will also need help. Their physical and mental health may have deteriorated due to extended periods of inactivity during the lockdown and cancelled hospital or GP appointments.
One of the thousands of people across the city who have experienced Covid-19 is Jeannie McGinnis, 48, who classed herself as fit and healthy before she fell ill with coronavirus on March 13.
Jeannie, originally from Texas, experienced moderate symptoms and wasn’t admitted to hospital but she continues to feel the impact of Covid-19. She contracted asthma, which she has never suffered from before, and continues to use an inhaler.
She continues to suffer lung and respiratory problems since, including what she calls the "Covid strangle," when she wakes up with a feeling of pressure on the chest.
She said: "What is difficult is that there is no cure, no definite course or path.
"Some days taking the washing downstairs is too much. Simple, everyday tasks are sometimes impossible almost three months on".
It has also had a significant impact on her mental health and she has sought help from a counsellor.
"I have a great support system but it has still taken an incredible toll on me," she said. "I have spoken to people who feel like they have PTSD – it’s a traumatic event. You feel unsafe in your own body".
“It’s like snakes and ladders – you are so up and down. Some days are better than others but the improvements are more gradual - it is more on a week-to-week basis".
She said it was clear that Covid-19 is having a significant, long-term impact on some people who would have been considered low risk and there will be an extended recovery period for those people.
She added: "Extra support and expertise to aid that recovery - like the work of this new unit - can only be a good thing."
The unit will be located at the newly opened £14m AWRC, a global centre for research and innovation in physical activity situated, on the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis said: "The new unit will be at the forefront of helping people rehabilitate from Covid-19 and in doing so, will become a national leader on research into recovery from the virus".
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