Amanda Grahman watches her four-year-old son, Zander, happily stack coloured blocks into a pattern matching the one on the table.
This is an annual ritual for the Grahman’s who have participated in the WATCH (Women and their Children’s Health) Study since Amanda’s pregnancy.
The WATCH study began in 2006 when Dr Alexis Hure, a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing, recruited Novocastrian women like Amanda to have a series of ultrasounds and measurements collected throughout their pregnancy.
“We wanted to see whether nutrition during pregnancy was important for the growth and development of healthy kids,” Dr Hure said.
The WATCH Study not only monitored Zander’s growth during Amanda’s pregnancy, it also analysed her vitamin levels, maternal weight gain, nutrition and the impact of breastfeeding.
“Zander was my first child, so knowing that there was a team closely watching him was really reassuring,” Amanda said. “Having such a talented team of people monitoring Zander’s growth and nutrition relieved a great deal of stress and anxiety”.
The study has also helped identify and treat a number of prenatal conditions that may not have been picked up in a regular pregnancy until much later.
“We have picked up lots of little things in our mums and kids. Anything from some of our mums having high cholesterol that needs monitoring or medication, to babies whose organs weren’t growing and developing normally during pregnancy,” Dr Hure said.\
“While this was not the main aim of the study it is nice to think that we have been able to offer our mums a level of health monitoring that is beyond standard care.”
Dr Hure is now focusing her research on the role that diet and nutrition has as a predictor for child intelligence. Zander attends an annual appointment at the WATCH clinic where he does an IQ test.
“Participating in the study has really emphasised the importance of nutrition and a healthy diet both during pregnancy and for young children,” Amanda said.
“It is very rewarding to bring Zander back and see that he is growing and developing intellectually. The WATCH Study has been such a fantastic resource and it is great to see him so happy and healthy.”
When Zander is not playing with blocks and cards as part of the study, he enjoys an active lifestyle with his mum. He loves to swim, jump on his trampoline and eat bananas.
While the WATCH Study is still conducting patient follow up and testing, Zander stands as a testament to the positive impact that good nutrition has on developing healthy kids.