Most of the common chronic metabolic diseases of adulthood, and those that ultimately reduce life expectancy, have their origin in childhood. At this time in life, genetic factors, which are often reflected in family history and ethnic background, interact with children’s growth and development, and a range of environmental and lifestyle influences. Ultimately, opportunities for the prevention of major adult diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease lie in childhood. However, in order to be able to screen for early evidence for disease, or risk of disease, there is need to understand how and when these diseases originate during childhood.
The EarlyBird study is an important “cohort study” designed to investigate childhood predictors of adult health. The study was originally set up by Professor Wilkin in 1999. The study was designed to investigate the origins of weight gain and the long term effects of weight gain and obesity on the risks of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The EarlyBird study is one of only a small number of long term cohort studies of healthy children around the world, and has made a significant contribution to understanding the early origins of obesity-related adult disease.