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Lack of child health research undermines future health of nation, say doctors

Royal College launches new fund to boost number of clinical and non-clinical researchers

Caroline White

Monday, 08 February 2016

Discovery science and biomedical research, essential for the advancement of medicine, remain disproportionately focused on adult conditions, says the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

In a bid to tackle this imbalance, it has launched a Children’s Health Research Capacity Development Fund to boost the number of child health researchers in the UK and abroad.

Failure to advance 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, says the College.

The new fund will support the career development and training of gifted young child health researchers in the UK and abroad and help them become the research leaders of the future.

The fund will also help strengthen long-term collaboration between UK research institutions and international centres of excellence to benefit the wellbeing of children and young people around the world.

It will complement funding streams that already exist within the National Institute of Health Research, research charities, and other organisations.

The fund, which has benefited from an initial generous contribution from the David Baum International Foundation, will be administered by a designated board that will include the President of the RCPCH and an independent chair. David Baum was a former president of the RCPCH.

“There have been inexorable rises in the prevalence of chronic, debilitating, non-communicable disease in adult populations that are crippling health economies and systems,” explained Professor Neena Modi, RCPCH President.

“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,” she said.

A key aim of the fund is to ensure that high calibre young researchers are assisted through the bottleneck that currently lies at post-doctoral level.

“The UK is in a unique position in that it benefits from a clearly defined clinical academic training pathway and the organisational structures of the National Health Service, the largest and finest universal healthcare system in the world. Together these provide a platform to integrate clinical research and patient care, speed the translation of new treatments into practice and test preventative interventions rigorously,” said Professor Modi.

“However, it takes around 15 years after leaving medical school to train to become a clinical researcher,” she added.

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