The GOS ICH Global Health initiative is led by Professor Jonathan Wells and Professor Michelle Heys.
Prof. Jonathan Wells
I am one of the principal investigators in the Nutrition Group. My training was in social anthropology, biological anthropology and paediatric nutrition. My research addresses global child health priorities through collaborative projects in a range of low- and middle-income countries. I also develop evolutionary and anthropological theoretical perspectives, to help identify novel opportunities for public health interventions.
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My empirical research focuses on how the nutrition and experience of mothers and children influences their development and shapes their health through the life-course. I collaborate with several birth cohort studies in low- and middle-income settings, including Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nepal. My research network has shown that patterns of early development not only influence children’s health outcomes, but also shape their education and their adult health, by impacting their susceptibility to non-communicable disease such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. I contribute to nutritional and stress-reduction interventions, that aim to improve maternal health and children’s growth and development. Recent randomised trials have demonstrated that nutritional supplementation can reduce stunting and promote lean tissue growth in sub-Saharan African settings (Burkina Faso, Uganda), that maternal relaxation therapy during the period of breastfeeding can improve both maternal mental health and infant weight gain in late preterm and early term infants (China, UK), and that 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding can support healthy infant growth (Iceland).
Alongside my empirical work, I develop evolutionary perspectives that aim to understand why poor maternal and child nutrition affect health throughout the life-course and across generations. Currently, I am drawing on evolutionary life history theory and mathematical modelling to elucidate how inequalities, stress and discrimination impair maternal and child health outcomes. I also work on understanding the causes of inequality and hierarchy in human societies.
Prof Michelle Heys
Michelle Heys is a UCL and NIHR Professor of Global Child Health and a Community Paediatrican looking after children and young people with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities in Newham, East London. Equity is at the heart of her work. Using a range of methodologies including inclusion health, implementation science and digital health, she researches into how health systems can improve outcomes for children and young people in low resource settings (UK, Nepal, India, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Australia). Her work focuses on priority populations: sick and small newborns; those with a diagnosis of complex neurodisability and/or with neurodiversity, those living in temporary accommodation, and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people. Michelle is fully trained in General Paediatrics and part-trained in Public Health in the UK and Hong Kong.
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Michelle’s first experience of research was in behavioural sciences and qualitative methods to explore experience of care in adults with chronic pain. She then explored routine clinical data to explore risk of mortality in children admitted to paediatric intensive care. Her formal research training was in life course epidemiology working with linked health and education data from Hong Kong Chinese adolescents and older Chinese adults to explore associations between early life exposures, including nutrition, and cardiovascular and cognitive health in later life.
Michelle is co-principal investigator for Neotree, Chata and Healthier wealthier families in East London.
Neotree is a digital learning healthcare system to improve quality of care and reduce preventable newborn morbidity and mortality in low-resource settings and we are currently working with partners in Zimbabwe and Malawi.
CHATA (children with autism technology enabled assessment) aims to improve equity and efficiency of autism assessment in a culturally and linguistically diverse population, Newham, East London. We are working with Urdu, Bengali and English-speaking families to co-develop and test the acceptability, feasibility and clinical validity of a digital pathway, including tele-medicine assessment.
Healthier Wealthier Families in East London is a health service evaluation of the embedding of income maximisation services (welfare benefit advice) within child disability services. The premise of this is that many families do not receive the benefits they are eligible for, nor do they access welfare benefit services – yet they are extremely vulnerable to financial insecurity.
She supervises 5 PhD students working on a range of projects, including Neotree.
Michelle is an innovator – both in the development of new interventions and in seeking opportunities to adapt existing successful interventions to new settings. For example, she has worked with teams to adapt community participatory learning and action groups developed, tested and delivered within rural low-income country settings to the UK (NEON). She also supervises and mentors a PhD student adapting babyUbuntu (community group intervention to support families of children with complex neurodisability) to the UK (ENCOMPASS).