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Aryntayeva Aryntayeva

Alumna Returned as a Visiting Scholar and Presented at Major Public Health Conference

Nurila Aryntayeva, M.D., and M.S.P.H. graduate from the Department of Public Health Sciences (DPHS) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, traveled from Almaty, Kazakhstan to exhibit the findings of a new study highlighting the strain on the mental health of medical personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Aryntayeva presented “Mental Health of Healthcare Workers during COVID-19” at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo during the 150th-anniversary celebration in Boston, MA, in November 2022.

Given that healthcare workers are directly involved in diagnosing, treating, and caring for COVID-19 patients, they are more likely to experience mental distress and other psychological health symptoms. Their mental health may be exacerbated by the daily rise in confirmed and suspected cases, the lack of personal protective equipment, and insufficient support.

Researchers want to improve and preserve the emotional well-being of healthcare professionals. They sought to assess the psychological symptoms of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

During the COVID-19 outbreak (September 11 to 26, 2021), 554 frontline and non-frontline healthcare professionals were enrolled in a cross-sectional study. “We evaluated depression, anxiety, and insomnia using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), respectively,” said Dr. Aryntayeva.

Out of the 554 healthcare workers surveyed, 52.6% had direct contact with COVID-19-infected patients, and 27.8% of them were infected by COVID-19. Participants reported experiencing anxiety, depression, and insomnia in varying degrees (48.1%, 49.5%, and 45.4%, respectively). Furthermore, 20.4% of healthcare workers displayed suicidal tendencies, with 44.5% of them reporting that they had not received psychological services.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the dearth of psychiatric assistance led to a high percentage of healthcare personnel exhibiting mental distress and other psychological health symptoms, especially among female medical staff; 83.5% of healthcare workers were women. “Our findings further indicate that women had severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia,” said Dr. Aryntayeva. Special interventions for enhancing the mental health of medical personnel who were exposed to COVID-19 should be a focus of future strategies, she added.

Dr. Aryntayeva is currently working with Tulay Koru-Sengul, Ph.D., Associate Professor at DPHS. “Dr. Aryntayeva was here with us as a visiting scholar in the department. We are currently working together as part of her Ph.D. candidacy at the Kazakh National Medical University. It was great to see one of our public health graduates, Dr. Aryntayeva, take a leadership role on an international stage during the COVID-19 pandemic to address a very important public health problem. We plan to publish the study findings in a peer-reviewed journal.” said Dr. Tulay who is also the Director of the graduate program of Master of Science in Biostatistics.

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on January 23, 2023