How a mother’s data can help countless children


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In Rhode Island, when pregnant women are ready to give birth to their babies, 80% of them are registered with Women & Infants in Providence, making it one of the largest obstetric care hospitals in the country. If children need urgent care, parents can take them to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, which manages 90% of pediatric hospitalizations in the state. Nearby, Bradley Hospital is dedicated to child and adolescent mental health.

There is no other state in the nation where so much medical care of the population takes place in an area that is indeed similar to the campus of a single medical school, in this case Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, which includes each of the three among its affiliates in teaching hospitals.

To take advantage of the unique opportunity offered by this continuity of care, the Hassenfeld Institute for Innovation in Child Health, based in Brown, began in 2017 a study of the same name of pregnant women and their babies over time. The original prenatal cohort of the Hassenfeld study collects data on pregnant women in the first or second trimester and tracks them until after delivery. The study’s postnatal cohort, launched two years later, focuses on women after giving birth to Women & Infants. Participants agree to share demographic information, provide saliva and , and complete periodic surveys on their .

To date, more than 1,000 women have signed up, with between 40 and 60 new mothers and their babies continuing to join each month. This treasure trove of data allows researchers to look for patterns and make predictions about maternal and child health.

For example: What factors affect pregnant women with asthma (such as stress, diet, sleep, and genetics) can predict the development of asthma in their children? What behaviors of the newborn may be related to developmental delays? Are babies born in a particular zip code more likely to suffer from a specific health problem? How do socioeconomic and racial / ethnic differences affect the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s first year of life in his or her health and development?

“The Hassenfeld study is a rich source of data that can be used to answer important questions, as well as additional studies on urgent child health issues,” said Patrick M. Vivier, a professor of public health and medicine at Brown who directs the Hassenfeld Institute.

In 2019 alone, nearly $ 15 million in federal grants were awarded to Brown academics affiliated with the Hassenfeld Institute for studies that depend on birth cohorts. Among these, the National Institutes of Health awarded Brown’s research teams $ 6.9 million to investigate the origins of the development of child health disparities; $ 3.5 million to identify better ways to diagnose abnormalities in glucose metabolism during pregnancy; and $ 4.1 million to analyze child cry acoustics and neurobehavioral characteristics as early markers of autism spectrum disorder.

To support Brown academics conducting studies like these, the Hassenfeld Institute convenes a team of doctors and researchers to collect and analyze data, as well as to turn ideas into funded, staffed projects.

“For those of us who came to Rhode Island because it’s such a wonderful place to study the health of the population, the Hassenfeld Institute allows us to make that goal a reality,” said Dr. Erika Werner, Brown’s associate professor who directs maternal fetal medicine at Women & Infants. “We have come so far: we have a qualified technician who gathers biological specimens such as saliva and blood, we have experts in , we have teammates who help us use this information to apply for grants. “

Werner, a member of the institute’s executive committee, used the Hassenfeld study to report on the investigation. with gestational diabetes and health interventions to prevent childhood obesity.

And the potential to generate information with data from Hassenfeld’s study has allowed the institute to help local partners solve a number of real-world problems affecting Rhode Islanders.

When the office of former Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo needed help understanding the mastery of reading among third-graders, her staff went to the Hassenfeld Institute. Experts from the institute’s basic research and assessment unit were able to conduct a retrospective study to assess risk factors in childhood and determine how they were associated with reading competence years later. His analysis reported on strategies to achieve the state’s goal of having 75% of third-graders reading competently by 2025.

When the Rhode Island Community Food Bank wanted to learn more about the people the organization served (a quarter of whom are children), its leaders also came to the institute. The researchers designed a survey, trained volunteers to administer it to more than 400 people, and then analyzed the results. One of the main findings of the survey was that 45% of respondents reported health-related issues, which underscored the fact that children need nutritious food to thrive.

“We were amazed at the amazing experience of the institute,” said Andrew Schiff, general manager of the food bank. “The 2019 famine survey provided a much more detailed picture of the families for whom our programs are structured. It profoundly changed our sense of responsibility to make sure we provided more food. healthy possible for our clients and also that we continue to collaborate with health care providers. “

In a separate project, Hassenfeld Institute scholars analyzed data from Medicaid claims to identify the geographic hotspots of childhood asthma, allowing researchers to find connections with neighborhood characteristics such as poverty and old house. They have also mapped the prevalence of childhood obesity by city, which has led community groups to take initiatives such as improving the nutrition of school lunches.

The Hassenfeld study has also provided opportunities to assess the impact of new and emerging threats. By the end of 2020, 241 mothers enrolled in the study had completed a COVID-19 pandemic survey, the results of which provide important information on the side effects of COVID-19 on public health. After learning that 70% of mothers said they had higher levels of stress compared to before the pandemic and that 19% of children had missed face-to-face medical consultations, the institute offered webinars on topics such as child welfare routines during COVID.

The study data should not only be useful to research partners, according to Vivier: “We try to make this information available as soon as possible to advise, reassure and guide families across the state and beyond.” .

The study highlights the health barriers that women with disabilities have during pregnancy

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Citation: How a Mother’s Data Can Help Countless Children (2021, June 11) Retrieved June 11, 2021 at

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