MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health
Research quick links
- Congenital disorders
- Childhood origins of adult disease
- Electronic health records
- Genetic epidemiology
- Growth & development
- Health inequalities
- Life course research
- Obesity, nutrition & physical activity
- Research for policy & practice
- Screening & surveillance
- Statistical methods
- Vision & eyes
Dr Pat Tookey sits on the Steering Group for Positively UK’s From Pregnancy to Baby
and Beyond project, which trains women living with HIV as mentor
mothers to provide peer support for pregnant women newly diagnosed with HIV,
or planning pregnancy.
Published: Dec 9, 2013 1:52:38 PM
Published: Nov 29, 2013 11:51:38 AM
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:
Published: Oct 3, 2013 4:41:09 PM
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. More...
Published: Sep 9, 2013 3:45:53 PM
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. More...
Published: Aug 23, 2013 3:36:42 PM
Congenital, inherited and developmental disorders
Our research into conditions that babies are born with include: infections transmitted from mother to child, genetic conditions that may be inherited from parents, and disorders of development that are often manifest at birth.
Through our research we aim to provide information that can be used to improve how these disorders are diagnosed, treated and prevented. We also investigate the long-term effects of these conditions. Our research has been used to inform NICE guidelines on how specific conditions are treated, as well as for the development of national screening policies.
Current and recent research
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Congenital cytomegalovirus
- Congenital heart defects - UKCSCHD
- Congenital heart defects - newborn screening
- Congenital hypothyroidism
- Congenital rubella
- Congenital syphilis
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is an inherited condition that affects the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands. It can cause a life-threatening 'salt-wasting' crisis and is also associated with accelerated growth and overproduction of the hormone, androgen, which can result in girls being incorrectly assigned as boys at birth.
If detected early enough, CAH can be successfully treated to prevent many of these problems. This surveillance study will investigate how many children are diagnosed with CAH each year and how it affects them. This information will contribute to a review of newborn screening policy.
Principal investigator: Rachel Knowles
Team: Juliet Oerton
More information: CAH study page
A mother who has a new or reactivated cytomegalovirus infection in pregnancy may infect her fetus or newborn child. Although this often causes no problem for the baby, in 10 to 20% of infected children it can result in hearing loss and other long-term disability (for example, cerebral palsy, developmental delay) and may result in severe disease or even neonatal death.
We have investigated such infections in the UK, and are currently combining British and Swedish data to investigate the relationship between asymptomatic congenital cytomegalovirus infection and hearing loss.
More information: Key publications
For every 1,000 babies born, around 8 will be born with a heart defect.
Heart defects cause 3% of all infant deaths. The objective of this study, funded by the British Heart Foundation,
was to explore the childhood outcomes and quality of life of children
born with heart defects in the UK.
Paediatric cardiologists from 17 UK centres contributed information through a clinical casenotes review. Children and their families were invited to take part in a postal survey about daily life, health, school and social activities.
More information: UKCSCHD study page
Newborn screening for congenital heart defects
This NHS Health Technology Assessment (HTA) project highlighted that measuring oxygen saturation of the blood could be a simple and cost-effective screening strategy to identify heart defects in newborn babies. The study identified the need for further research and led to the HTA commissioning the PulseOx study to investigate the use of pulse oximetry on maternity wards.
Principal investigators: Carol Dezateux, Rachel Knowles
HTA report: Newborn screening for congenital heart defects: a systematic review and cost-effectiveness analysis
All babies in the UK are screened for congenital hypothyroidism at around 5 days of age. Over 700 babies are referred for further diagnostic tests based on a positive or borderline screening result.
This condition affects the thyroid gland's ability to produce thyroxine, a hormone essential for normal growth and development. Treatment as soon after birth as possible is important in avoiding growth and developmental problems.
This national surveillance study will provide information on how many children in the UK are confirmed to have hypothyroidism, how many of these are detected through newborn screening and whether they are getting the appropriate treatment and care.
This study utilises an online questionnaire system to make reporting more efficient and will make use of the data management resources being developed within the centre by the epiLab team.
Principal investigator: Rachel Knowles
Team: Juliet Oerton
More information: UKCS-CHT study page
We have an extensive programme of research on HIV in children and pregnant women, and work in close collaboration with a number of HIV research collaborations in Europe.
Dr Pat Tookey co-ordinates the National Study of HIV in Pregnancy and Childhood, which has been collecting data on HIV-positive pregnant women and children since 1986. Dr Claire Thorne leads the European Collaborative Study on HIV-infected pregnant women and their children and a programme of research in Ukraine.
More information: HIV research
MCADD (medium chain acyl co-A dehydrogenase deficiency) is an inherited metabolic disorder that can cause severe illness in young babies and even sudden death. It affects an estimated 1 in every 10,000 newborn babies in the UK.
This study was an evaluation of a pilot newborn screening service for MCADD. Commissioned by the Department of Health it informed the introduction of a screening policy for MCADD in England in 2009.
Principal investigator: Carol Dezateux
Team Member: Juliet Oerton
If a woman acquires rubella during early pregnancy she can pass the infection on to
her fetus. A baby born with congenital rubella may have many
associated problems, including deafness and damage to the eye and
heart. Congenital rubella is now extremely rare in the UK because of a highly effective immunisation programme.
Through the National Congenital Rubella Surveillance Programme we collect information about
any new cases of congenital rubella in order to help to monitor the effectiveness of the
rubella immunisation programme.
Principal investigator: Pat Tookey
More information: BPSU website
More information: Congenital rubella study page
2000 and 2007, there was a six-fold increase in reported cases of infectious
syphilis in pregnant women. The aim of the Surveillance of Antenatal Syphilis
Screening (SASS) study, funded by the National Screening Committee, is to provide evidence to improve current antenatal
screening practice. We are trying to establish what proportion of women
identified at antenatal screening need treatment to reduce the risk of transmitting
syphilis to their babies, how they are managed, and what happens to their
We are collaborating with the Health Protection Agency and BPSU on a parallel surveillance study of congenital syphilis.
More information: Congenital syphilis study page
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite. If a woman contracts toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, the infection may be passed to the fetus. Although this may not affect the child, it can sometimes result in deafness, blindness or cerebral palsy. The European Multicentre Study on Congenital Toxoplasmosis (EMSCOT), funded by the European Commission, was a cohort study based on over 1200 toxoplasma-infected pregnant women. The study involved 15 centres in 7 countries, in Europe and Brazil.
The study addressed questions about the risks of transmission and signs of damage in the child and how these risks are modified by prenatal treatment.
Principal investigator: Ruth Gilbert
More information: EMSCOT website
Page last modified on 22 nov 11 16:30