UK launches £7m project into study examining children hardest hit by Covid-19

Researchers will follow 30,000 children in Bradford from adolescence into adulthood

Ambulances at Bradford Royal Infirmary hospital in Bradford, northern England, which has switched to emergency measures due to staff shortages caused by a wave of Omicron infections. AFP

The UK has launched a £7 million project to study 30,000 children over a seven-year period to examine the impact Covid-19 has on them.

It will follow the children from the Yorkshire city of Bradford, northern England, from adolescence into adulthood.

The area, which has a high level of poverty and is home a large population of ethnic minorities, was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with one in 10 people contracting the disease.

The Age of Wonder project follows on from the Born in Bradford (BIB) programme, which was launched in 2007 and is now one of the biggest health research studies in the world.

It will allow “schools, services and policymakers to better understand young people’s perspectives, measure recovery from the pandemic and design new, targeted interventions to improve the life chances of young people” in the area.

John Wright, director of Bradford Institute for Health Research, said the research will help develop new ways to improve the health of children.

“Young people across Bradford will have this unique opportunity to be part of the most important study of their generation,” he said.

BRADFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: A general view of the Scholemoor Cemetery and Crematorium on November 16, 2020 in Bradford, England. In an essay for the BBC this weekend, Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary reported how Bradford's main Muslim cemetery has been struggling to keep up with burials amid the country's second wave of covid-19 infections. However he cautioned that "it will take some medical detective work to determine the cause of this increase in deaths." (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

“They will help us create a detailed picture of every aspect of what it’s like to grow up in Bradford, the youngest city in the UK, with almost a third of people aged under 20.

“As they move into adolescence and then adulthood, young people will experience many changes to their bodies their emotions and their social lives. They also enter this period at a time of unparalleled disruption amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we follow these young people from age 13 to 21, our research will give us a window into their world like never before — and our findings will help to shape new ways of improving their physical and mental health.”

Evidence from the BIB project has already helped to uncover the harm of air pollution, the impact of diet and exercise, how urban environments affect health and the early causes of diabetes and heart disease.

“The research and findings produced so far by Born in Bradford have been ground breaking,” Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, said.

Dr John Wright has been running a weekly blog during coronavirus lockdown. Photo: Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

“We welcome the launch of the Age of Wonder project which will see BIB work in collaboration alongside the council and our schools and colleges to focus on adolescence.”

At the peak of Covid-19 deaths locally, the main Muslim cemetery reached capacity and gravediggers were working around the clock.

More than 1,200 people have lost their lives and about 46,000 people have contracted the virus.

There is a large amount of fear regarding the Covid-19 vaccines in Bradford's diverse community, which has led to a low level of acceptance.

To combat this, area mosques stepped up, leading the way in becoming the first in the country to host vaccination centres.

Dr Wright has been at the forefront of highlighting the importance of vaccines and wrote about Bradford’s mosques and community leaders setting an example.

Bradford continues to lead the way in new initiatives to help fight it.

In the latest move, it become the first city to open a vaccine clinic in an Asian restaurant.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 4:45 PM