International Development Section meeting: Learning from longitudinal studies

On March 27 2019, the RSS International Development Section at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in collaboration with the LSHTM MARCH centre, hosted a meeting titled 'Learning from longitudinal studies in the UK and low- and middle-income countries'. It featured speakers working on longitudinal cohort studies who shared their experiences, including Alissa Goodman from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS), UCL and Francisco Oteiza from the CLOSER network. Jim Todd joined remotely for the ALPHA Network, and the evening finished with Jo Boyden from Young Lives, Oxford University. 

The lecture began with Alissa, economist and director of CLS, discussing a recent project transcribing essays written by 11-year olds predicting what work, interests, and homelife they would have at 25. By looking at the language that children used to describe their futures, it was found that negative word choices resulted in worse life circumstances while more positive word choices resulted in better life circumstances. Alissa went on to discuss the Millennium Cohort Study and that findings indicating a high prevalence of mental illness in teenager girls has been published in the media. The impact of children’s weight on maternal employment was also published. Alissa mentioned that further research for the organisation will focus on improving social mobility, obesity, and mental health.

The next speaker was Francisco Oteiza, a senior research associate and economist at CLOSER. He discussed a recent project that involves the creation of a catalogue collecting over 200 longitudinal cohort studies from lower- and middle-income countries. Collaborating with existing catalogues, Francisco explained that this will help to increase the visibility and search ability of studies but that it will not hold the datasets itself. 

Joining remotely from Uganda was Jim Todd, a professor of applied statistics and epidemiologist for the ALPHA network. The network consists of ten research institutes whose goal is to understand HIV in Africa. Jim explained that the network has been successful in informing the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS treatment guidelines through their research. In addition, the relationship between diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer to HIV is being examined. Speaking with Jim was Doren Nabukalu, a Researcher at a partner intuition in Uganda called the Rakai Health Sciences Program. She explained that cause of death in Uganda often lacks information and is incomplete. A system to have a doctor assign a cause of death can help with this but is expensive. Therefore, automation will be explored more to help with these costs and this is the focus of her PhD.  

Last to speak was Jo Boyden, a social anthropologist and director of Young Lives, a multi-country study into understanding the factors that lead to child poverty. Outcomes from the study so far have shown stunting is still a big problem and that it is predictive of lower scores in school. Jo said there are many factors to lead to recovery of stunting such as household, community, and individual factors. Depending on the child’s age certain factors may be more important in the recovery of stunting. For example, with older children, puberty and natural disasters had more of an impact, whereas in younger children, household and community factors were shown to be more important.  

A recording of the meeting is available at the following link

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