Study seeks new insight into declining child heart health
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With school back in session Simon Fraser University professor Scott Lear is embarking on a new international study on childhood health – and reaching out to the local community to help.
The study will focus on child heart health and targets 5,400 students in Grades 2- 3 and 9 – 10 to determine how the home, community and school environments affect child behaviours and health in urban Canada, urban India and rural India.
Special attention will be given to Vancouver’s South Asian community, which has a greater risk for heart disease than other ethnic groups.
“The health of Canadian children is quickly deteriorating – in just 30 years, the number of children who are overweight and obese has nearly doubled and at the same time fitness levels of our children has decreased substantially,” says Lear. “Together, this puts our children at great risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease as young adults.
“While we know the problem, we don’t know the solutions or have enough information to develop effective solutions.”
The study is dubbed RICH LEGACY – Research in International Cardiovascular Health – Lifestyles, Environments and Genetic Attributes in Children and Youth.
“With this study we hope to identify causes and consequences of poor childhood health to help develop programs in each of these environments,” says Lear, who also holds the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital.
Researchers are aiming to identify social, environmental and biological characteristics related to heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity and abnormal cholesterol in children.
“These risk factors for heart disease are increasing in children throughout the world and as a result, diabetes and heart disease are occurring at younger ages,” says Lear.
Researchers are looking to partner with Greater Vancouver schools and parent associations as they seek participants for the study.
Once the results of the study are known, Lear will work with the children, parents and partnering schools to develop programs that can help improve child heart health.
“Understanding how the environment our children live in, whether the home, school or local community, affects health will help to identify possible solutions to the problem of increasing child obesity and poor health,” Lear says. “Working with the community will help us create solutions that work.”
The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the CANNeCTIN cardiovascular trial network.