THE Origins Project, a collaboration between the Telethon Kids Institute and the Joondalup Health Campus community, is a long-term study that aims to recruit 10,000 northern suburbs families whose babies are born at the Joondalup hospital.
The Federal Government has joined with the Paul Ramsay Foundation to fund the project, with each pledging $13 million over 10 years.
The massive research undertaking, which will follow the progress of pregnant women, their partners and babies for the first five years of the baby’s life, grew out of the increasing understanding that an individual’s lifetime health and disease may be programmed at a very early stage while a child is still in the womb.
The project will collect detailed information on how a child’s early environment and parents’ physical health and genetics influence the risk of a wide range of diseases and conditions such as asthma, eczema, food allergies, hay fever, diabetes, obesity and autism.
It will also look at how language development can affect outcomes such as academic achievement, social ability and relationships.
The Origins Project is co-directed by Professor Susan Prescott, from the Telethon Kids Institute, and Professor Desiree Silva, director of paediatrics at Joondalup Health Campus.
Prof Prescott said the project was one of the largest and most comprehensive birth cohort studies ever undertaken.
“This whole project is about looking at ways we can reduce the risk of various diseases and provide the healthiest possible start for babies, even before they are born,” she said.
“To do that, we need to understand the developmental origins of health and disease, when and how chronic diseases get started.
“The information we collect through The Origins Project will provide vital clues that help us not only pinpoint these important pathways, but come up with interventions that either prevent these diseases altogether or help to manage them far more effectively.”
Prof Silva said The Origins Project provided a golden opportunity for today’s mums and dads to make a real difference for future generations.
“We want this to be a fun, informative, community experience for those who take part, one that benefits not only them and their own families, but our wider community well into the future,” she said.
The Origins Project is open to pregnant women and their partners planning to deliver their baby at Joondalup Health Campus, where some 4200 babies are born each year.
Researchers will collect blood and saliva samples along with data on the family’s health, diet, physical activity patterns, electronic use and a range of factors in their environment.
This information will provide ‘real-time’ feedback to parents about their child’s development.
In our regular columns, The Origins Project researchers – each experts in child health and development – will tackle common questions and concerns about babies and children, as well as the role of parental health.
They will address questions like when to introduce nuts to babies, when a child should start talking, whether a baby is gaining appropriate weight, the impact of early electronic exposure, and early signs of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and ADHD.
For more, visit www.originsproject.telethonkids.org.au.