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24 January 2005 PR 05/07

Loughborough University researchers to examine the link between wealth and child health

Researchers at Loughborough University have been awarded almost half a million pounds to examine the effect wealth has on child health and development.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is funding the project, which is being led by Paula Griffiths in the Department of Human Sciences. It is hoped the study will help Governments across the world to design environmental, social and health policies that reduce the risk of poor health and improve the wellbeing of future generations of children growing up in urban societies.

To carry out the research Paula will be focussing on children in South Africa, where the income gap between the richest and poorest people is the second largest in the world.

Her work will tie in with an existing project, known as ‘Birth to Twenty’ (BTT) at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, which started in 1990 and is the longest running study of children’s health in Africa. It is one of a few large research projects following almost 3,000 children from birth to early adulthood within a developing country. Previous studies in Africa have not been able to consider how wealth affects health over time, but BTT makes this possible because the same children are studied annually.

This new project will involve 671 BTT children and aims to identify the contributions that household and community wealth make to their health and lifestyle. Examples of community wealth include access to schools and hospitals, good transport services, low crime rates and the provision of adequate facilities to buy food. Measures of household wealth include ownership of goods, such as cars, bikes, televisions and game machines, as well as social support, for example whether the mother of a young child has family and friends that she can talk to about problems that her or her child are experiencing.

To examine the contributions that these factors of wealth have on child health Paula will look at such things as growth, weight, on-set of puberty and bone health in the children, as well the food they eat and the amount of exercise they take part in. The study will also highlight differences that wealth makes in relation to gender, age, ethnic group and birth weight. Paula will make several visits to South Africa to carry out the study, working alongside the BTT researchers.

Paula explains: “This project will help us understand how the health of a child is influenced by factors arising before and after its birth. It will enhance our knowledge of the contributions of different aspects of wealth to health in South Africa, allowing policy-makers to design and target policies at the most important aspects of wealth for improving child health at the most appropriate stages in their growth and development.”

The funding for this project has been awarded under the MRC’s career establishment grant scheme and Paula was one of only 11 researchers across the country in the field of medical research to be given such an award in 2004. She is also the first ever Loughborough University researcher to be given this kind of grant.

Ends

For further information contact:

Notes to editors

  1. Paula is available for media interviews. For further details contact Judy Smyth.
  2. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities, and industry highlights Loughborough in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 45% of the University’s income is for research. The University has been awarded four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; and for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development.

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