1. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, religious communities have had a positive impact through collaboration with government, cancelling in-person gatherings, and adapting to virtual meetings.

2. Alternatively, certain religious communities have played a detrimental role during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing transmission and promoting mistrust/misinformation toward public health guidelines.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Historically, religious communities have played a major role in society’s response to epidemics. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has led religious communities to respond in various ways; yet, these have yet to be synthesized. As a result, the objective of the present systematic review was to summarize the roles that religious communities have played with respect to the transmission, mitigation and/or adaptation during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (from December 2019 to July 2020).

Of 1000 identified records, 58 were included in the final analysis from database inception to July 2020. Articles were included if they reported epidemiological evidence of the roles that religious communities played in the transmission, mitigation and/or adaptation of COVID-19. Studies were excluded if they were thesis dissertations, pharmacological, or biochemical studies. The summary of findings was performed narratively, reporting outcomes of interest, relevant inferential statistics, and relationships between religion and COVID-19 outcomes.

Results demonstrated that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, religious communities have had a positive impact through collaboration with government, cancelling in-person gatherings and adapting to virtual meetings. Alternatively, certain religious communities have played a detrimental role during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing transmission and promoting mistrust/misinformation toward science and public health guidelines. However, the study was limited by the absence of risk of bias assessment due to the novelty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to include all immediately available studies. Despite this, the present study provides insight on how various religious communities have responded in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic and inform strategies for future pandemics.

 Click to read the study in Journal of Religion and Health

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