Born in Bradford: Landmark research study to expand thanks to £3m grant

Born in Bradford director Professor John Wright.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Born in Bradford director Professor John Wright. Picture Bruce Rollinson
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IT is one of the largest medical studies in the world, tracking the lives and health of more than 9.000 children in a West Yorkshire city. Now the landmark Born in Bradford project has been awarded a £3m grant to expand its research.

Since its launch in 2007, the project has gleamed a wealth of medical and social research - from discovering British Pakistani infants ate more chips and sugar-sweetened drinks than their white British 12-month-old counterparts in the city, to creating the first Yorkshire-wide congenital anomalies register.

This grant will help us to understand how children’s family, social class and ethnic backgrounds promote their healthy development in these areas

Professor Kate Pickett

The impetus for the research stemmed from Bradford’s high infant mortality rates – which were double the national average – and a determination to tackle a raft of growing health issues in the city.

The grant, awarded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), ensures new studies will examine the health and wellbeing of at least 9,000 of the original Born in Bradford children, now aged between seven and 10 years old.

It will be used to find out more about the study’s children and their 13,500 parents, who were first recruited while their mothers were pregnant, via a new questionnaire about their lives, health and wellbeing.

The new data collected will provide a platform to support world-leading research across a wide range of areas.

Kate Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York and the University’s Research Champion for Justice and Equality, is leading the research on how children develop socially and emotionally.

She said: “Children’s social and emotional wellbeing is crucial for their long-term health and achievement and this grant will help us to understand how children’s family, social class and ethnic backgrounds promote their healthy development in these areas.”

Born in Bradford (BiB) is led by the Bradford Institute for Health Research at Bradford Royal Infirmary, and supported by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

On the back of BiB research, it became the first in the NHS Trust in the UK to provide diabetes screening for all pregnant women and developed a mobile phone app to help parents and health professionals monitor children’s weight.

Research has varied greatly, such as discovering differences in children’s diet, for example that British Pakistani infants eat much more fruit and less processed meat than their white British counterparts, to studies on gestational diabetes, and the effects of air pollution. Such findings are important because they allow health professionals to see trends early and means they can encourage parents to adopt healthier diets that could save the NHS huge sums of money further down the road.

BiB director Professor John Wright, who is credited with having the idea of bringing together health professionals and researchers to improve the lives of children in the city almost ten years ago, said: “We are thrilled by the award of this prestigious research council funding.

“Doctors and nurses in Bradford have been working closely with the UK’s leading scientists to develop a programme of research in Born in Bradford that will help us to improve the lives of future generations of children.”

Last September BiB shared some of its most notable findings at the British Science Festival, which was held at the University of Bradford.

Research that helped show that exposure to air pollution caused by fumes from vehicles can significantly restrict the growth of babies in the womb was also published in the health journal The Lancet.