ReACH: Advancing maternal and child health research in Canada through cohort cataloguing

A research platform funded under CIHR's Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (HeLTI) is providing a valuable resource for researchers looking at the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, or DOHaD for short‎.

Researchers in the DOHaD field study the links between pregnancy, child health, genetics, environmental exposures, and chronic diseases. By identifying the key factors contributing to the development of diseases and intervening at the earliest time possible, the aim is to prevent chronic disease and promote life-long health.

Canada is a world leader in DOHaD research and through HeLTI, CIHR is mobilizing researchers in this country and internationally as part of a coordinated global effort. The Research Advancement through Cohort Cataloguing and Harmonization Initiative – or ReACH, for short – is part of this coordinated effort.

ReACH is managed by Dr. Isabel Fortier in collaboration with Drs. Stephanie Atkinson, Alan Bocking and William Fraser. The initiative brings together epidemiologists, statisticians, and computer scientists developing resources to leverage collaborations and optimize use of Canadian research data.

Dr. Isabel Fortier
Photo: Pierre Dubois, MUHC

Dr. Fortier and her team, based at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), have so far catalogued 25 Canadian DOHaD studies which recruited over 53,300 mother-child pairs, and 17,800 fathers. These cohorts are collecting a wide range of measures including, but not limited to information on lifestyle and health behaviours, disease history, medication and supplements, cognition, personality and other psychological measures.

Their work doesn't stop there. In addition to the freely accessible web-based metadata catalogue with study and variable level searchable information, the ReACH team also develops resources to support data harmonization and co-analysis of across studies. They provide methodological guidelines, open source software, expert advice and technical support to DOHaD investigators interested in using available Canadian data.

“With our work, we aim to optimize the impact of Canadian DOHaD studies,” says Dr. Fortier. ”We are providing the research community with the means to optimize usage of existing data and samples as well as facilitate the establishment of research collaboration. By providing these resources, we hope to advance science and propel the use of research results to improve human health.”

ReACH Platform: The Power of Collaboration

  • Brings together 53 investigators from different fields of research
  • Contains data from 25 Canadian pregnancy and birth cohorts
  • Involves a total of 53,300 mother-child pairs and 17,800 fathers
  • Provides meta-data catalogue, harmonization platforms, and data analysis tools
  • Provides information in 17 areas, 132 categories and more than 95,500 variables
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