Healthy future: Investing in children

For the first time in history, children are becoming less healthy than their parents.

Health experts are reporting rising rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and numerous other disorders in children. Alarm bells are ringing.

One group determined to reverse this trend is the Financial Markets Foundation for Children, a charitable organisation supported by donations from the financial community. The foundation’s purpose is to promote the wellbeing of children in Australia by funding research that can give children a healthier future.

The foundation made a $5 million gift to the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre to address the growing threats to childhood health. The gift will establish a Chair of Translational Childhood Medicine at the centre to work across the University, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and other University‑affiliated hospitals.

The Acting Dean of Sydney Medical School, Professor Arthur Conigrave, highlights the powerful effect the gift will have. “This is a wonderful investment in Australia’s future,” he says.

The chair will oversee an Australian‑first study of 10,000 couples and their children, which will show in unprecedented detail how biology interacts with environment and lifestyle to affect a child’s health.

The insights will be far-reaching since it’s already known that a woman’s health before pregnancy can affect not only her future child, but also the health of future grandchildren.

The Charles Perkins Centre is uniquely suited to carry out this vital research. It is an innovative, cross-disciplinary hub for addressing diseases of the modern world brought on by poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. The gift from the Financial Markets Foundation for Children will allow more crucial research to get underway sooner.

Belinda Hutchinson AM, Chancellor of the University of Sydney, is optimistic about the possibilities. “This will have a transformative effect on research into the factors impacting children’s health,” she says.