Child Health and Development

May 18, 2022

This PWIAS international research roundtable was held on May 2-4, 2022, organized by the UBC Social Exposome Cluster and led by Dr. Michael Kobor, Social Exposome Cluster Lead and the Edwin. S.H. Leong UBC Chair in Healthy Aging; and Dr. Danielle van Jaarsveld, Professor in the Sauder School of Business. We also received support from a CIHR Planning and Dissemination grant to Dr. Anne Gadermann, Assistant Professor in the School of Population and Public Health. The roundtable explored research related to the social exposome, a term used to describe the cumulative social and environmental exposures that we encounter throughout our lifetime, from conception onward.

Participants described their work showing how the exposome shapes child development and long-term health, and the biological mechanisms by which early life environments and experiences become biologically embedded. They explored current challenges facing children in our changing world, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate-related natural disasters, like wildfires. Lastly, they discussed how research on these topics could be used to inform policies and interventions to reduce disparities in child health and developmental outcomes and promote health and wellbeing across the life course. With in-person and virtual attendees from out-of-province, the US, Netherlands, Scotland, and Australia, unique perspectives were brought forth.

Social Exposome Roundtable

The 3-day workshop facilitated discussions surrounding, for example, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth mental health trajectories and how early life social exposures and vulnerabilities contribute to future health outcomes. Key gaps in current research work were identified:

How should researchers proceed with using data collected relating to youth before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic?

How should resilience be defined in research contexts and how can it be fostered during childhood?

The absence of racialized, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized community representation within administrative data and research cohort studies. More diverse sampling representative of world demographics is needed to generalize research conducted and apply it to society at large.

Roundtable attendees formed new connections and strengthened existing ones. Through these connections, there will be more opportunities to collaborate on research and to share key and relevant findings. Four trainees were also in attendance. The cluster hopes to inspire future generations of researchers, and provide opportunities for trainees to further their careers.

Extracting strawberry DNA at Science Rendezvous

As an extension of the workshop, the Social Exposome Cluster collaborated with Science Rendezvous for a public event for children and families on UBC campus. The May 7 event offered a variety of STEM activities for all ages, including our strawberry DNA extractions with kids using common household products like dishsoap, table salt, and water. The cluster’s new informative video was also premiered.

Graphic recording: Annalee Kornelson
Story & images: Esha Gill, Kim Schmidt