New centre to advance child health research

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Institute of Child Health (ICH) at UCL (University College London) have announced a partnership to establish a centre for research to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting children's health, and to promote their health and well-being.

Based within the UCL Institute of Child Health and due to open in March 2006, the MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health will be led by Professor Carol Dezateux. The MRC has awarded £1.62 million of funding towards the Centre, and ICH / UCL will provide senior academic positions and infrastructure support.

Establishing the Centre addresses an area of strategic importance: the clinical and public health research agenda for children's health. It will forge new academic collaborations to bring together internationally renowned scientists in epidemiology, statistics, informatics, genetics, paediatric pharmacy and policy research. Through interdisciplinary research, it will strengthen the scientific basis of strategies to improve the health and well-being of children, and the adults they will become. The Centre will be an independent source of scientific expertise on children's health for the MRC, Government, NHS, research funders and health professionals. It will also disseminate the results and conclusions of research for use by families and the media.

The Centre's research portfolio will focus on epidemiological questions of major relevance to children's health, including childhood obesity and physical activity, the causes and outcomes of infections in pregnancy and early life, genetic and other causes of hearing loss and disorders of vision, and early life influences on adult health and disease. The Centre also plans new studies on the outcomes of birth following assisted conception, and the safety of medicines for children.

Through its location within a combined academic and clinical institution, the new Centre will also provide a strong environment for academic training for clinicians and non-clinicians in epidemiology, biostatistics and academic public health applied to children. This will be further enhanced by new collaborations with other groups within UCL.

The Director of the new Centre, Professor Carol Dezateux of the Institute of Child Health said: "The award of this Centre has created an exciting and timely opportunity to develop and use research to improve children's health and well being. I am looking forward to taking the Centre's programme of work forward together with a group of distinguished and committed scientists and to attracting young and talented researchers to work with us."

Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council said: "The MRC is delighted to be supporting the new Centre. Its establishment will address an area of strategic importance for medical research in the UK. As well as offering huge scope for scientific advancement, the collaborations will be important for feeding into other national initiatives, including the UK Medicines for Children Network recently announced by the Department of Health."

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