New study to look at factors affecting child growth and development

Loughborough University has been awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate the impact of ethnicity, social standing and economic situation on the growth and development of children and adolescents.

The study will form part of the Healthy Birth, Growth and Development knowledge integration (HBGDki) initiative.  This aims to extract insights from past and ongoing research funded by the Foundation, and others in the field, by pooling together data from individual studies that will be made available to qualified researchers.

This pooled data will be used to generate predictive models that measure the impact of actions to reduce the risk of malnutrition and infection/inflammation, as well as to improve gut function, during critical child growth and development stages.  It is hoped it will enable the development of effective targeted interventions to achieve better return on investment in child nutrition programs.

The Loughborough project will be led by Professor Barry Bogin and Dr Ines Varela-Silva from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and focus on data collected in Mexico and Guatemala.  They will be working with researchers from the Department of Human Ecology at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Merida, Mexico, and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

Data has been collected on child growth and development in Guatemala since 1953 when Dr Robert B MacVean wanted to compare the findings of child development studies conducted in the United States with child growth and maturation in a less economically developed nation.

The Loughborough team and its partners will work together to organise the existing data into more useful formats so that it allows for:

  • A better understanding of the relationship between child growth trajectories and risk factors that contribute to physical and cognitive growth and development faltering
  • Accurate prediction of physical and cognitive growth and development trajectories from both complete and incomplete data
  • The formulation of new recommendations for targeting potential programmes to improve cognitive and physical growth trajectories of children identified at high risk.

Speaking about the Loughborough study, Professor Bogin said: “There is a wealth of data already out there on child growth and maturation.  Through better organisation of this data we hope to be able to get a much better understanding of how ethnicity, social standing and economic situation impact on the growth and development of children and adolescents.  This could lead to much more effective interventions for children at risk of impaired development on a global scale.”

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