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
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
Published: Apr 26, 2013 2:30:00 PM
Social and economic conditions influence how we behave, the lifestyle choices that we make, and the access we have to environments, amenities and services. These 'social determinants of health' affect whether we stay healthy or develop certain diseases, the treatment we receive, and the approach we take in promoting health and dealing with illness- both our own and that of our children.
The disparities in health between groups or populations are known as health inequalities. By understanding how social, economic and environmental conditions affect our lifestyle and our behaviour, and understanding in turn how these affect our health, we can try to identify ways to reduce health inequalities, as well as improving the health and wellbeing of the population overall.
Our research around health inequalities focuses on children and parents. For example, a mother's health behaviours are influenced by her social and economic circumstances and can affect the health, growth and development of the fetus from very early in pregnancy.
Current and recent research
- Parental employment and child health
- Family structure
- Lead exposure
- Obesity, nutrition and physical activity
- UK policies to tackle child health inequalities
Does parental employment affect the health of children? It is a main plank of UK policies to reduce child poverty and its associated health inequalities. However, there has been little research on how the different patterns of employment and work that characterise modern families (in their many forms) are associated with children’s health and health inequalities.
The aims of our research, funded by the Public Health Research Consortium, were to examine how current and recent UK policies relating to employment impact on children’s health, assess the relationship of parental employment with child health up to the age of 7 years and to explore the mechanisms through which relationships between parental employment and child health arise.
Through secondary data analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study, a review of relevant qualitative literature and by primary qualitative research, we drew out how policy and practice might use this information to promote child health.
Findings from this research add to our previous studies in this area which have examined maternal employment and indicators of child health and the relationship between maternal employment and health behaviours in 5 year olds.
Principal investigator: Catherine Law
Over the past few decades dramatic changes have occurred to the types of families in which children live, including rises in lone parents and step families. Despite this, little is known about how the health of children living in different family structures varies, particularly in young children and in the UK.
We have compared the physical and emotional health of young children living in different family structures, using data from the Millennium Cohort Study. If differences were found to be apparent, we then investigated whether these were explained by disadvantage (for example poverty and maternal education) and/or other aspects of family circumstances (such as employment and childcare), with a view to identifying risk factors and exposures that are amenable to policy action.
Principal investigator: Catherine Law
More information: Children's Policy Research Unit
Immunisation is proven to be the most effective medical and, after clean water, the most effective public health intervention to protect against potentially serious diseases. Information for parents combined with well-organised and accessible services are key to giving all children the opportunity to have the protection vaccines can provide.
Our research has investigated factors that determine whether a child is completely or partially immunised according to recommended schedules in both population and hospital settings. Our findings have been used to improve services, increase immunisation rates and help health professionals understand and respond to parental questions and concerns.
More information: Immunisation
Chronic lead poisoning in young children is linked to reduced intelligence and behavioural difficulties. By measuring the level of lead in milk teeth from children participating in the Millennium Cohort Study, this study team will investigate how children's exposure to lead in the environment is affected by where they live, their sex, levels of deprivation, ethnic group and early feeding patterns.
It will also look at how children's lead levels are linked to their physical and mental development.
Principal investigator: Carol Dezateux
Obesity, nutrition and physical activity
Obesity is one of the risk factors for a number of serious health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease; obese children are also less likely to perform well in school and are more likely to become obese adults. Policies to address obesity in childhood, and even before birth can therefore have an effect on our health throughout our lives.
Policy research in this centre is evaluating existing strategies for reducing obesity amongst children as well as looking at how physical activity affects obesity and our chances of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
More information: Obesity, nutrition and physical activity
There is evidence that smoking during pregnancy has an effect on the development of the fetus, and that the exposure of children to smoke has a negative impact on health.
Our research into maternal smoking focuses on understanding what determines whether or not and where the parents of small children are likely to smoke. Understanding these determinants could help formulate policies that would decrease the exposure of children to smoke.
Principal investigator: Catherine Law
When the UK Labour Government came to power in 1997 its stated commitment to both improving the lives of children and reducing health inequalities was unprecedented.
However, despite systematic and wide-spread investment and policy effort over thirteen years, and an overall improvement in the population’s health, child health inequalities persist. Our research explored the Labour Government’s approaches to reducing child health inequalities and examined why its policies were not more effective.
This was presented by Catherine Law at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health annual conference and has been accepted for publication in Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Principal investigator: Catherine Law
More information: RCPCH presentation
Page last modified on 24 nov 11 10:51