MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health
What we do
We teach and carry out research to improve children's health and wellbeing and to
prevent, diagnose and treat conditions that might affect them in
childhood or in later life.
We develop and apply statistical methods to complex research data and train researchers to use these methods.
We work with researchers from other disciplines and those who use our work to ensure that our research gives children the best possible start in life.
World AIDS Day 2013
Publication date: 29 November 2013
Centre research included in highlights of European research from the past year
Professor Ruth Gilbert is Clinical Lead for Research on UK's largest study of child mortality
Publication date: 3 October 2013
The study, published 30 September, was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership and is part of the Child Health Reviews - UK (CHR-UK) project led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and based at our Centre.
Key findings are:
Centre's work on HIV in pregnancy highlighted in UNAIDS HIV
Publication date: 9 September 2013
Two papers from the Centre’s HIV group have been selected for inclusion in the August issue of HIV , which highlights important new findings in HIV science.
Half of all UK 7 year-olds not getting enough exercise
Publication date: 23 August 2013
Half of all UK seven year-olds are sedentary for between six and seven waking hours per day and half are not doing the recommended daily minimum of one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, according to the latest findings from the Millennium Cohort Study.
The research, led by academics at UCL and published in the journal BMJ Open, shows that girls, children of Indian ethnic origin and those living in Northern Ireland are least active.
The authors base their findings on a representative population sample of almost 7,000 UK primary school children who are all part of the Millennium Cohort Study.
The duration and intensity of children's daily physical activity levels were captured for a full week between May 2008 and August 2009, using a device called an accelerometer, worn on an elasticated belt. The children only took this off when they bathed or went to bed.
UK guidelines on physical activity levels across the life course were revised in 2011. These recommend that children engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least one hour every day, and that they spend less time sitting down, although no maximum duration has been specified for this.
The analysis showed that on average, across the entire sample, children achieved 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, and that they took an average of 10,299 steps.
But the accelerometer readings also showed that half the children were sedentary for six hours or more every day and that half of them didn't achieve the daily recommended minimum level of exercise.
Girls fared worse than boys in terms of of total physical activity, moderate to vigorous physical activity and in the number of steps they took each day. They were also more sedentary and less likely to meet the minimum daily exercise recommendations than the boys. Just 38% of girls achieved this, compared with almost two thirds of boys (63%).
"We don't have any biological explanation for the different levels of activity in boys and girls," says Carol Dezateux, Professor of Paediatric Epidemiology at the UCL Institute of Child Health and senior author on the study. "At this age, there aren't significant differences in how children are put together physically, so we have to look at opportunity and social expectation.
"What we need to see is a positive attitude to offering choice, diversity of opportunity, a wide range of activities and inclusiveness for all children - especially girls."
Children of Indian ethnic origin spent least time engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise and took fewest steps each day, while only one in three (33%) of children of Bangladeshi origin met the recommendations.
Among the four UK countries, children in Northern Ireland were least active with just 43% managing 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, while children in Scotland (52.5%) were most likely to achieve the minimum daily recommended duration of more intense activity.
Around 52% of English children managed 60 minutes each day but there were some regional differences, with children living in the North West (58%) most likely and those in the Midlands (46%) the least likely to meet the guidelines.
In an accompanying podcast, senior author Professor Carol Dezateux describes the gender differences in exercise levels as "striking" and calls for policies to promote more exercise in girls including ballgames, playground games and dancing.
The authors refer back to the promise of the London 2012 Olympic Games, which was to inspire a generation to take part in sport.
"The results of our study provide a useful baseline and strongly suggest that contemporary UK children are insufficiently active, implying that effort is needed to boost (physical activity) among young people to the level appropriate for good health," they write.
This is likely to require population wide interventions, they say, including policies to make it easier for children to walk to school, in a bid to increase physical activity and curb the amount of time they are sedentary.
Measles Outbreak Highlights Importance of MMR Vaccine
Publication date: 26 April 2013
Response to 'HIV baby cure' headlines
Publication date: 21 March 2013
Senior Lecturer at the Centre, Dr Pat Tookey, was interviewed on the BBC News Channel, and participated in a 3-way live radio discussion on Voice of Russia.
Researcher Starts MRC Fellowship
Publication date: 11 January 2013
Dr Anna Pearce Starts MRC Population Health Scientist Fellowship
In January 2013 Anna Pearce commences an MRC Population Health Scientist fellowship. Her research will take a longitudinal and cross-national approach to gain a better understanding of why children from disadvantaged backgrounds experience poorer health than those from more advantaged backgrounds. Anna will spend the next three years researching this topic, including 12 months at the University of Adelaide. Findings will be used to inform UK and international policy for the reduction of child health inequalities.
Parents regaining confidence in MMR vaccine
Publication date: 28 November 2012
Senior Lecturer at the Centre, Dr Helen Bedford, is quoted by BBC News.
The latest figures for uptake of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine show that 91% of two year old children in England have received the vaccine. This is the first time since 1998 that MMR vaccine rates have been higher than 90%. In 1998 a publication in the Lancet, which was widely interpreted as suggesting MMR vaccine was linked with autism and bowel disease, led to widespread media coverage and speculation about the safety of this vaccine. Many parents who were justifiably concerned, decided not to accept the vaccine for their children. Rates fell to a low of 78% overall but in many districts, particularly in inner London, rates were as low as 50%. We are continuing to see the results of this, with large outbreaks of measles once again in England.