Life Study Consultation 2012

Introduction

 
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The purpose of this survey is to seek views from academics, policy-makers and others on the design and content of the new Life Study. We want to understand your priorities, and to take your views into account as we develop the study and prepare for its initial piloting phase.

About Life Study

Life Study is a large-scale UK birth cohort study, which will track the growth, development, health, well-being and social circumstances of over 100,000 UK babies and their families. Our overarching vision is to develop Life Study as a resource of information relevant to the improvement of the lives, health and well-being of children, both now and in the future. This cohort will provide a rich and internationally unique longitudinal resource of data, environmental and biological samples that can be used to address future questions and hypotheses regarding early life origins of disease, health, well-being and development.

The aim of Life Study is to understand how the family, social and physical environment in very early life influences child development, health and well-being. Five major research themes will be explored through the cohort:

• Inequalities, diversity and social mobility
• Early life antecedents of school readiness and later educational performance
• Developmental origins of health and illness in childhood
• Social, emotional and behavioural development: the interplay between infant and parent
• Neighbourhoods and environment: effects on child and family

We will explore cross-cutting issues within each of these themes, including those relating to prematurity, ethnicity, diverse families and conceptions to reflect contemporary UK population intergenerational influences on health and social outcomes. The cohort offers an opportunity to develop and test theoretical understanding of social and biological mechanisms operating through the life course, and to identify translational opportunities which might have early impact in relation to health and social policy. The study is innovatively large-scale, thus has sufficient statistical power to examine the interplay between biology, behaviour and environment (including by ethnic groups).

Life Study is currently in its design phase, with a pilot study expected to begin in 2013. In the main phase of the study we will recruit approximately 90,000 pregnant mothers, and their partners, who will both be seen at special Life Study centres around the country. Mothers will return to the same centre with their baby for two further visits – when s/he is four months old and again when 12 months old. We are consulting on the scientific protocol for this component of Life Study – namely the mother’s pregnancy visit, her partner’s visit to take place during the pregnancy and two visits of the mother with her baby when the latter is 4 and 12 months of age. These questions will be adapted for a further sample of 20,000 babies to be recruited after birth.

While the initial funding covers the period from pregnancy through to age twelve months, we expect the study to continue to follow these babies as they grow up and through adulthood. Life Study has been designed to reflect the rich diversity of ethnic identity and social backgrounds of babies in today’s Britain and to include close study of children during their first year of life, unlike any of the previous national studies of this kind.

Further details of the study design and themes

Overview of the draft scientific protocol

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