A landmark study to help uncover the origins of non-communicable diseases

21 Dec 2017

A project to uncover the causes of chronic conditions like allergies, asthma, autism, diabetes and obesity in early life, including in utero.

We were delighted last month to announce our investment in the ORIGINS Project – one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken into how a child’s early environment, including before birth, influences the dramatically rising risk of a broad range of chronic child health problems. Through the study, we’re hoping to help uncover the causes of things like allergies, asthma, autism, diabetes and obesity, and what we might do to reduce the risk.

The project is a collaboration between Telethon Kids Institute and Joondalup Health Campus in Western Australia. It will collect a broad range of data, and provide participating parents and children with health check-ups and follow up support when a risk factor is identified, to help prevent or minimise future health issues.

The ORIGINS Project will follow a birth cohort of 10,000 individuals from pregnancy until the child is five years old, enabling a wide scale investigation into how pregnancy and early life exposure can influence a child’s growth, development and life-long health.

We’ve guaranteed $13m of the $26m required to complete the ORIGINS cohort study, and we’re delighted that the Federal Government have matched our funding through Channel 7 Perth’s Telethon.

Our CEO, Simon Freeman, said investing in collaborative projects that involve community and government has greater potential for impact in preventing and treating chronic conditions.

“The Foundation is committed to investing in research that seeks to address the ever growing burden of disease caused by chronic conditions – particularly interventions that focus on the vital early years,” Mr Freeman said.

“ORIGINS is fully integrated within the clinical and diagnostic environment at Joondalup Health Campus, giving us the opportunity to see the impact of innovative approaches to treatment and prevention,” he said.

“Our ultimate goal is to identify the root causes of chronic conditions and to have effective approaches to prevention and management so that all children can have a healthy start to life,” said Mr Freeman.

Professor Desiree Silva is Head of Paediatrics at Joondalup Health Campus and Co-Director of the project, and said that the philanthropic investment was significant.

“This invaluable contribution will enable a unique large scale investigation into how pregnancy and early life exposure can influence a child’s growth, development and life-long health,” Professor Silva said.

“What’s exciting about ORIGINS is the breadth and depth of the study. It lets us explore the early causality of Australia’s growing and debilitating chronic illnesses, and identify and implement interventions.”

Professor Susan Prescott from the Telethon Kids Institute is co-director of the project, and emphasised that ORIGINS will address many of the most pressing health issues of our time.

“One of its unique virtues is the ability to translate the findings by rapidly integrating them into both clinical practice and community activities. This hasn’t been the case in other longitudinal birth studies,” Professor Prescott said.