Providing the best start in life
A £25 million donation from Marit Mohn (MSc Chemical Engineering and Chemical Technology 1973) will establish a new centre for research, education and community engagement around
children’s health and wellbeing.
Enormous progress has been made in protecting children’s health over the last 25 years. Better access to healthcare, sanitation and mass vaccination programmes have reduced under-five mortality by more than half since 1990. Yet significant health threats remain both locally and globally. In our own community in White City, many children are living with chronic health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, asthma and eczema.
We are only beginning to understand the long-term impacts of childhood illness, which can affect health and wellbeing over a lifetime. Now, thanks to a £25 million gift from alumnus Marit Mohn, Imperial is establishing the Mohn Centre for Children’s Health and Wellbeing, which will unite researchers and clinicians working to improve the health of children and young people in White City and communities around the world.
Imperial is home to many research initiatives with a focus on children and young people, and has worldleading expertise that spans issues such as infectious disease, childhood obesity, diabetes, neonatal health, and many common diseases of childhood, such as asthma and allergies. With the creation of the Mohn Centre, Imperial will, for the first time, have a dedicated space for multidisciplinary children’s health, where researchers focusing on allied themes will work together, sharing ideas and expertise. The gift also allows the appointment of an academic director to develop and lead an ambitious programme of research that aims to tackle some of the greatest health threats facing children and young people.
“What this gift challenges us to do, is to think about how we can bring together Imperial’s incredibly rich expertise in child health in new and complementary ways,” says Professor Deborah Ashby, Director of the School of Public Health. “We already have some good examples of paediatricians and epidemiologists working together – for example, in researching risk factors for developing childhood asthma. The new Centre will be a place to deepen and expand these collaborations.”
The Mohn Centre will also be the base for the landmark White City Cohort Study, which will follow a group of children from birth into adulthood and old age. By monitoring the health of participants over an extended period of time, researchers will deepen the understanding of childhood illness and its impact over the years.
“Establishing the Mohn Centre will see us primed to take on this kind of long-term study, which is crucial to finding out how disease in old age is connected to early life experiences,” says Professor Ashby. “This cohort study will last a lifetime and the findings that come from it will have impact for generations to come.”
The cohort study will also provide a unique insight into the health of children and young people in White City, which will help to shape practical interventions to improve health and wellbeing locally. White City is one of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas, with high levels of child poverty (four in ten children grow up in poverty) and overcrowding (17.8% of households) both factors that have been shown to have a negative impact on health.
“The effects of disease, lifestyle and social disadvantage in infancy are felt throughout life, often only becoming apparent in old age,” says Professor Ashby. “At the Mohn Centre we will develop effective early interventions that ensure future generations have every opportunity to thrive and succeed.”
Imperial’s £100 million campaign for the School of Public Health will enable us to deliver a state-of- the-art building at White City, and amplify our work in four key areas: world health, food and nutrition, community health and policy, and children’s health and wellbeing. To find out more, please visit imperial.ac.uk/giving/transforming-health