The Child Health CheckPoint is a new phase of the long-term Growing up in Australia study, also known as the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Children aged 11 to 12 will take part in the project, which aims to provide the first national statistics on heart, lung and other aspects of health for Australian 11-12 year olds.
The data collected will provide vital information on how pre-teen health paves the way to adult health and illness. A ‘pop-up’ centre will travel to 12 cities around Australia to conduct the Child Health CheckPoint.
Over a three-hour session, children will have tests for blood pressure, an arterial ultrasound, and retinal photography. Further tests for lung function, dental health, physical activity and fitness, body mass index (BMI), vision, and health-related quality of life will also be carried out. Importantly, researchers hope to pinpoint early indicators of chronic cardiovascular and respiratory diseases that present later in life.
“Cardiovascular and chronic lower respiratory diseases are among Australia’s leading causes of death,” says Professor Melissa Wake, who co-leads the Murdoch Children's Research Institute's Community Health Services Research Group. “They develop from complex health and psychosocial pathways that run through childhood.”
“We will explore early-life mechanisms underlying patterns of social disparity and their potentially-avoidable cost – evidence that is essential to develop appropriate, early and effective prevention and intervention.”
Cardiovascular disease accounts for more than one third of Australian deaths, costing the nation about $14 billion annually, or 1.7 per cent of total GDP. Asthma, meanwhile, affects more than 10 per cent of Australians, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accounts for four per cent of deaths. These conditions have their origins in childhood.
The researchers will analyse the data collected along with existing LSAC information to discover whether social and economic factors play a role in determining cardiovascular and respiratory health. The information will provide new national data on cardiovascular and respiratory health problems, including risk factors and biomarkers for future disease in Australian 11 to 12 year olds. The data, to be released widely in 2017, will also provide a better understanding of how early life affects the wellbeing of children, adolescents and adults.