Internship Public Health
The mission of our research group is to improve the health of the population.
This is an ambitious goal but there are several ways to contribute to this challenge. Within our team we focus on child health. We believe that the key to future public health is how healthy people are in their childhood and adolescence.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the health of children, while developing their organs and body system, is being highly influenced by all sorts of external factors. Normal life exposures such as nutrition, pollution, or passive smoking not only affect our health as children, they even track into our entire adulthood!
For our research, we are using information of large birth cohort studies. One of the birth cohorts, the PIAMA study, that has given us many scientific and public health relevant insights was started in 1996. We have followed these children from birth into their adult life, as they will turn 18 the coming years. Over these 18 years, we have collected an enormous amount of data. Several researchers and PhD students are working on the birth cohorts, but there are still so much more research options. And we are not finished yet, as all this information has given us more ideas and we are curious how these children will do in their adult life.
Each researcher of our research group has a specific focus and has developed own expertise within our common research theme on early life determinants of later health. As we are working on a similar aim, and we all use data of birth cohorts, we have regular meetings with all students (MSc, PhD) and researchers to discuss and improve each other's work, share knowledge and learn from each other.
Children who were breastfed as an infant have lower blood pressure than children who received infant formula. It was hypothesized that one potential reason for this was the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk. In the PIAMA study, we collected samples of breast milk and measured the children's blood pressure during adolescence. We found that children who received breast milk with a higher amount of these fatty acids had lower blood pressure that children who received breast milk with a lower amount of these fatty acids or children receiving infant formula. As the fatty acid content of breast milk can be modified by the mother's diet, this give clues that child, and probably adult health can be enhanced by improving the breast milk quality, as well as improving the composition of infant formula.
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