06/02/2009 - 15:57

WA researchers receive $9.7m grant

06/02/2009 - 15:57


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The Telethon Institute of Child Research has been awarded a $9.7 million grant by a national medical council to undertake an unprecedented program of research into pregnancy and early childhood.

WA researchers receive $9.7m grant

The Telethon Institute of Child Research has been awarded a $9.7 million grant by a national medical council to undertake an unprecedented program of research into pregnancy and early childhood.


The announcement is below:


WA researchers have been awarded a prestigious $9.7 million grant to undertake an unprecedented program of research to determine the critical social, economic and environmental factors in pregnancy and early childhood that have a lifelong impact on health and wellbeing.


The work, funded by a program grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), will be undertaken at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in collaboration with researchers from the University of Western Australia and Curtin University of Technology.


The comprehensive research program will analyse trends and impact of developmental disorders and mental health problems in childhood and the extent to which they contribute to educational problems, child abuse and neglect and crime. It will also examine early childhood influences on an adult's later abilities and participation in the social, economic and civic aspects of our society.


Institute Director Professor Fiona Stanley said the research program is at the cutting edge internationally and builds on the Institute's innovative work in developing and linking comprehensive data on births, deaths and hospital admissions in WA dating back to 1980. It also uses data from thousands of WA children and families who have voluntarily participated in long term studies. New systems now enable all this gathered data to be linked to education, health, welfare and justice records without the need to identify individuals.


"A new approach is needed because of the increases we are seeing in a whole range of problems affecting children, ranging from obesity to autism, " Professor Stanley said. "What we don't know is what is really driving these increases and the long term impact of these childhood issues on the individual and the community. We do not have effective public health interventions that work across the whole community for many of these child and youth problems because we do not have up to date information on the underlying causes.


"We know that there have been significant changes in our society including the amount of alcohol and drugs consumed by women, the increase in maternal age, longer working hours, changes in nutrition and diet, a rise in family breakdowns, greater stress and more technologies. This research will give us a much better understanding of what most affects children so we can boost those things that are good for child development and look at ways to reduce those that are negative."


Chief Investigator Professor Steve Zubrick from Curtin's Centre for Developmental Health said the research project would also look at how childhood shapes the later adult.


"The data and linkages that we have here in Western Australia are unique in the nation and rare internationally. We now have the capacity to track how a child's earliest experiences impact on their long term health, education, employment and criminal behaviour," Professor Zubrick said.


"It's extremely powerful to be able to mine 28 years of data, interviews and government records to analyse how early childhood influences on the later abilities of the adult to be productive socially, economically and as a member of the community.


"The results of this work should bring a new focus on how early development affects health and participation in society and will identify innovative ways to improve the lives of all children, regardless of their social circumstances."


The NHMRC funding begins in 2010 and funds five years of research.



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