News from CREAL
On last October 27th Nature published that an ambitious study that planned to collect information on 80,000 British babies throughout their lives ended just 8 months after its official launch because not enough prospective parents signed up. The closure comes less than a year after the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) cancelled a similar effort to trace 100,000 children from birth, prompting fears that researchers will now shy away from proposing similar studies.
Prized by both medical researchers and social scientists, birth-cohort studies reveal associations between factors early in life, such as poverty or a mother’s diet in pregnancy, and outcomes later on, ranging from diseases to cognition and earnings. Various efforts already exist around the world, but Life Study was to be one of the biggest and most ambitious yet, with a £38.4 million (€53.5 million) budget until 2019.
According to Martine Vrijheid, researcher at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), an ISGlobal allied center, “it is a large setback for research on child health that large new studies such as the UK Life Study, have not been successful in getting going. In many European countries, existing birth cohorts studies, similar in design to the UK Life Study, have made scientific advances of great relevance to policy making, feeding into recommendations for breastfeeding, alcohol consumption during pregnancy, exposure to toxins, and many more. CREAL has been instrumental in the building of a network of birth cohorts in Europe by leading the EC projects CHICOS, ENRIECO, and HELIX. These networks have brought together over 35 cohort studies across Europe studying more than 350,000 mother-child pairs. Researchers should exploit these existing resources more, and to enable this the next step would be the creation of a sustainable platform for birth cohort research in Europe.”