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Researching the causes and effects of childhood diseases

THE Telethon Institute of Child Health Research has become a leader in researching a number of childhood diseases.

Moving into a $23 million purpose-built and government funded building three years ago has allowed the ICHR to accommodate more areas of research.

The institute has several major research areas that aim to understand and prevent childhood diseases such as cerebral palsy, cancer, asthma, and spina bifida.

The research divisions have access to state-of-the-art databases, which have tracked children from conception to their current age and include information about a variety of illnesses at different stages of development.

It is these databases that allow researchers to develop strong evidence about the advent of diseases, according to ICHR director Fiona Stanley.

The databases have been able to help researchers discover the role of folate in the prevention of birth defects.

ICHR researchers have suggested, for example, that problems during labour were responsible for less than 10 per cent of cerebral palsy cases.

The team has discovered that most causes of the disease start earlier in pregnancy and that infections during pregnancy and pre-term births play a larger role.

The institute implemented the world’s first preventative program, in collaboration with the Health Department of WA, which has led to a dramatic fall in the number of babies born with spina bifida.

Included among the ICHR’s research divisions are: Aboriginal child health; asthma, allergies and respiratory diseases; birth defects; cancer and leukaemia research; child and adolescent mental health; childhood disabilities and death; infectious diseases; and perinatal epidemiology.

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