What is the Kid's Environment and Health Cohort?

The Kids’ Environment and Health Cohort will be a new, national birth cohort of all children born in England since 2006. By linking data from birth, death, census, health, and education records to longitudinal national geo-environmental data, it will provide a resource for research into how the local environment affects children’s health as they grow up in England. 

The Kids’ Environment and Health Cohort will be a research-ready, anonymised national birth cohort of all children born in England since 2006. It will securely hold administrative data (from birth, death, census, health, and education records) linked to longitudinal national geo-environmental data, allowing researchers to follow children and their environments from pregnancy and birth until adolescence. 

The cohort will become a large data resource which will allow researchers to explore how children are affected by changes in environmental exposures over time, including children belonging to high-risk groups. The cohort will allow for cutting-edge research in environmental and social epidemiology, for example projects exploring long-term pandemic impacts or the effects of local climate change and Net Zero policies on children’s health and education.

By linking children’s data to their mothers’ medical records, researchers will be able to explore the pathways between exposures and events during pregnancy and the health and education of children later on, for example associations between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and subsequent child health. It will also be possible to link children to their siblings, allowing for sibling-control studies which have the potential to reduce bias when analysing cohort data by controlling for family-level risk factors.

There are currently 585,000 live births in England annually and therefore the total cohort will include data for around 11 million children initially. This large sample size and national coverage will ensure sufficient statistical power and geographical variation for in-depth analyses.

The newly linked data resource will enable research on associations between environmental changes and children’s health and education, which can inform government departments, local councils, and the public about how changing local environments impact children’s health and education. It will also enable new insights into how well housing, environmental, and planning policies are working to improve children’s lives.

To demonstrate how the Kids’ Environment and Health Cohort can be used, the team will carry out a research project to examine:

  1. How local greenspace coverage and access is associated with mental health in young people.
  2. How the availability and quality of local childcare provision is associated with primary education attainment.
 

Other key questions these newly linked datasets can address include:

  1. Do children with better access to public parks or other greenspaces have better outcomes in school?
  2. Are children with asthma who grow up in highly insulated but less ventilated homes at risk of developing worse asthma symptoms?
  3. Is exposure to extreme heat or heat waves during pregnancy linked to babies being born prematurely?
  4. Is going to school near gambling outlets linked to worse mental health in young people?
  5. For children with complex chronic conditions such as autism, epilepsy, or cystic fibrosis, does living or going to school near traffic-heavy roads increase the risk of being admitted to hospital?