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Government of Canada-funded study focuses on childhood development and long-term health

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A new study from CHÉOS Scientist Dr. Anne Gadermann will explore how and when social and environmental factors early in life influence physical and psychological factors related to health. Ultimately, the research will look at how these factors may contribute to inequalities in the development and health of Canadian children.

The grant, titled “From Society to Cell: Exploring the Social Exposome to Reduce Inequalities in Child Health and Development in Canada”, was awarded to Dr. Gadermann through the New Frontiers in Research Fund from the Government of Canada.

Dr. Anne Gadermann

“The social exposome refers to the social factors that a person is exposed to throughout their life that influence health,” said Dr. Gadermann “These include things like education, family income, food security, and housing.”
The research project, with multi-disciplinary investigators from the Social Exposome Cluster at UBC (including cluster co-lead, Dr. Michael Kobor), is based on reports that early life environments predispose children to later health and developmental outcomes. For example, a recent paper from the Social Exposome Cluster discusses how early life environmental exposure affect the gut microbiome and the incidence of asthma and allergies.
This type of research is particularly important in Canada.

“Canada is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, but, when it comes to child well-being, we rank 25th out of 41 high-income countries according to UNICEF’s 14th international Report Card,” noted Dr. Gadermann “Seventeen per cent of children in Canada live in poverty.”

The disparities in socioeconomic status and living conditions across the country are mirrored by increased rates of chronic disease and hospitalization in poorer Canadians.

“Our new research project will provide evidence to explain some of the factors that lead to disparities in health and development among Canadians, evidence that can be used to devise policies and interventions to address them” said Dr. Gadermann.

The project will involve linking B.C. population-level data on child development from the Early Development Instrument (EDI), census data, and administrative health and education records to data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) study through Population Data BC.

The CHILD Cohort Study, co-directed by Dr. Stuart Turvey, is a collaborator on Dr. Gadermann’s new study and has an extensive amount of data on early-life environmental exposures, as well as biological data.

Dr. Gadermann’s study will integrate measures of children’s physical wellbeing and health, language and cognitive development, social and emotional development, and other factors with information about biological responses (i.e. epigenomes, microbiomes, and metabolomes) that connect children’s social exposomes with their lifelong physical and mental health.

“Our analysis of this linked database will take a ‘society to cell’ approach where we will look at how a person’s developmental and health trajectory is affected by environmental and social factors during their life” said Dr. Gadermann.

Dr. Gadermann’s New Frontiers in Research Fund award totals $241,099 over 2 years. More than 150 grants across Canada were awarded in the 2018 competition.

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