The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has launched a new fund to help boost the number of child health researchers on home shores and abroad and thus “safeguard the future health of the nation”. 

While there have been great strides over the last decade in preventing and treating disease, discovery science and biomedical research remain disproportionately focused upon adult conditions, the College argues, which is adding to the burden of adult disease.

Doctors are warning that the failure to improve knowledge of the determinants of health in infancy and childhood “will have catastrophic consequences on adult health in years to come, and is already adding substantially to the burden placed on health services,” it says.

The Children’s Health Research Capacity Development Fund is designed to support the next generation of child health research leaders as well as help strengthen long-term collaborative links between research institutions both in the UK and abroad. 

“There have been inexorable rises in the prevalence of chronic, debilitating, non-communicable disease in adult populations that are crippling health economies and systems. The origins of these conditions often lie in early development and the solutions require strong basic science and biomedical research that includes infants and children,” said RCPCH president Neena Modi.

The newly created Fund will support the training of a new generation of children’s research leaders, and will “complement and add value to funding streams that already exist within the National Institute of Health Research, research charities, and other organisations.”

Campaign to save ONS data

Meanwhile, in a joint letter by 15 different organisations published in The Guardian, experts including Professor Modi are campaigning to save the collection of key child data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

As part of budget cuts, ONS has been consulting on whether to make cuts to some of the data it collects, including on maternal, perinatal, infant and childhood mortality in England and Wales.

But voicing their opposition to the move, the signatories* stress that “these important statistics form the bedrock of much research and have been used for monitoring trends for almost four decades, and “without them we will also not be able to benchmark against other countries and identify, and respond to any shortfalls in health and social care with well-informed evidenced based changes to Government policy and practice”. 

“These cost-cutting proposals are illogical, and fly in the face of current efforts to reduce maternal, infant and childhood deaths, stillbirths, and sudden unexpected deaths in the UK,” they conclude. 

* Signatories: Prof Neena Modi, RCPCH president; Francine Bates, chief executive, Lullaby Trust; Judith Abela, acting chief executive, SANDS; Ruth Bender Atik, national director, The Miscarriage Association; Jane Plumb, chief executive, Group B Strep Support; Keith Reed, chief executive, Tamba, Twins and Multiple Births Association; Ann Marie Barnard, chief executive, Action on Pre eclampsia; Caroline Davey, chief executive, Bliss, for babies born premature or sick; Jane Denton, director, The Multiple Births Foundation; Jane Fisher, director, Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC); Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, president, British Psychological Society; Munira Oza, director, The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust; Cathy Warwick, chief executive, The Royal College of Midwives; Tom Mullarkey, chief executive, ROSPA; and Dr David Richmond, president, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.