Reducing health disparities and achieving equity is one of key public health goals in Canada and worldwide. Understanding how and when such disparities emerge over the lifecourse are fundamental in our efforts to reduce health disparities. My research activities will be a concerted effort that collectively aims to better understand roles of early life determinants of health and health disparities. Early life experiences are crucial in setting one's life-long health capital, and the health capital set in pre-adulthood, in turn, affects health later in life. However, our knowledge on life-stage specific relations during pre-adulthood is limited. Thus, my 4-year research program will be centered around three research themes each with a different life-stage focus—at birth, birth through childhood, and in childhood through adolescence.
The first theme is socioeconomic and ethnocultural disparities in birth outcomes in Canada. Under this theme, I will examine differences in pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth and stillbirth by parental socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural background using a nationally representative sample of births in Canada. The second theme is early life determinants of health in childhood through adolescence. More specifically, I will examine (1) long-term effects of breastfeeding on health and development in adolescence, (2) determinants and consequences in individual differences in physical growth from birth to pre-school age, and (3) effects of family care policies on health and development during childhood through adolescence. The last theme is effects of prenatal exposure to maternal stress on child health and development using the 1998 Quebec ice storm as an acute stressor among children who experienced the storm in utero.
My research program will contribute to expanding current scientific understanding of relative importance of different prenatal, family, and other social environment determinants of health and development from birth to pre-adulthood during which health capital and behaviors are established.