2020 marked the start of 5 new paediatric research projects funded by the National Children’s Research Centre and Children’s Health Foundation, Crumlin. Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe (UCD, Principal Investigator), Dr Aisling Geraghty (UCD, co-PI), Dr Eileen O’Brien (UCD, co-PI), Prof. Declan Cody (CHI at Crumlin, co-PI) received funding for their project “Fetal programming of childhood cardiometabolic health and obesity: ROLO PreTeen Study”.
What research problem does this project aim to address?
Children that are born with a high birth weight are at an increased risk of being overweight in childhood and developing health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes later in life. It is important to understand the impact of birth weight on health later in life in order to identify individuals at risk and to design preventative measures to improve their health. Other factors in early life also influence heart health and if these children who are at-risk can be identified earlier in life then this gives the opportunity to step in and prevent it.
What is your proposed approach to solving this problem?
We have a team of doctors and research scientists who are going to carry out research on up to 500 children aged 9-11 years, 250 children born with a high birth weight and 250 born normal weight, and compare cardiovascular health and fitness between the two groups. We will use many different methods to measure heart health, including body composition, markers of health in the blood, and fitness tests to investigate the impact of birth weight and other early childhood factors on heart health. We will also test which measurements are most useful in determining health status at this age.
How will this research impact on child health?
This research is extremely important to determine what factors in early life can have a lasting effect on the child and influence their health into adulthood. This will allow us to identify children that may be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease or ill health later in life and the findings can be used to design an intervention for those at risk and to put them on a healthier track. These findings can be used to impact public policy, change health guidelines, and future research funding.