May 18, 2021

Piushkumar Mandhane on the CHILD study as an example of precision health research

Photo: Department of Pediatrics

Piushkumar Mandhane is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Respirology. His main area of research is on the impact of childhood sleep and sleep disruption on learning, growth and development. He is one of the original principal investigators for the CHILD Cohort Study and the Edmonton site lead.

As the fourth presenter for WCHRI’s Precision Health Research Seminar Series, Mandhane sat down with us to discuss the CHILD study and its importance as an example of precision health research at the University of Alberta.

What is the CHILD study and how is it an example of precision health research?

The CHILD study actively follows the study participants over time as they grow and develop—from mid-pregnancy into childhood and adolescence. It was built on asthma and allergies as the main focus but has been expanded to include cardiovascular research, mental health, neurological development, sleep research, biome research and other focuses. The study includes over 3000 families across Canada with sites in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto. 

Precision health looks at genetics, behaviours (such as exercise and eating habits) and environment as factors that affect an individual’s health. The CHILD study looks at factors including environment, physical activity, diet and many others.

By following the children prospectively as they grow, CHILD researchers are able to more accurately learn about how early-life exposures relate to health and disease outcomes.

How is this study important for the future health of women and children?

The CHILD study is one of the largest hands-on birth cohorts in Canada. Assessing childhood exposures from in-utero onwards is critical to determining the timing of exposures for potential interventions. CHILD collects information at time points that are considered to be critical to the child’s health and development.

CHILD findings may impact how health professionals manage a woman’s pregnancy or antibiotic use in early childhood, parent breastfeeding and early childhood diet choices, what products to buy, urban planning and health policy.

What is your research focus and how did you get involved with the CHILD study?

I was very interested in the CHILD study from the start and was involved in writing the original grant. Part of the reason I came to Edmonton was the great opportunity to be one of the sites to recruit for the study.

My area of research is on the role of childhood sleep and sleep disruption and the impact on learning, growth and development. Having said that, CHILD supports research in a broad range of areas from respiratory health, cardiovascular health and gut microbiome as some examples. It’s meant to be a collaborative study with many researchers involved.

What is happening with the CHILD study in Edmonton right now?

We are just finishing up seeing the children at eight to nine years of age. We are starting to plan for a 12–13-year visit. We are also participating in two COVID-19 research projects: one funded by the Alberta government and the other funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Both look at antibody tests to determine how many children have had previous infections and the impact of the pandemic on childhood health.

How can other researchers get involved?

CHILD believes that having a wide range of individuals with diverse expertise associated with the study is the best way to achieve maximum value. Visit our website (childstudy.ca), email me or feel free to reach out to any of the CHILD study investigators.

Join Piushkumar Mandhane for a seminar on the CHILD study as an example of precision health research. Happening on May 26 at noon. Register now!

Funding partners for the CHILD Cohort Study include the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and Alberta Women’s Health Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.