The Institute of Public Health at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the United Arab Emirates University established Mutaba’ah; the first and largest mother and child longitudinal cohort study in collaboration with other departments within the UAEU and several major hospitals in Al Ain.
Mutaba’ah, which means follow-up in Arabic, aims to secure epidemiological data on maternal and child health to investigate the maternal and early childhood determinants of infant, child, and adolescent health, as well as maternal health.
“We need to continuously monitor the health of this important part of the population. We already have an epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Emerging evidence suggests causal links between the occurrence of such diseases and exposures during pregnancy and early-life” said Dr Luai Ahmed, the project’s Principal Investigator. He said such causes could be related to the mother’s lifestyle and exposure to different environmental, biological, as well as socio-psychological factors. Moreover, physical and psychosocial exposures in the first months of life and later in childhood have important effects on health, well-being, and development during adolescence and adulthood.
The study will recruit 10,000 pregnant women from the Emirati population and follow them during the pregnancy and their offspring until the child turns 16. Recruitment started in October 2017, and the study has succeeded in recruiting nearly 7,000 participants up until November 2019. Data on many relevant exposures and health outcomes during pregnancy, delivery and birth is collected using questionnaires and extraction from medical records. Different exposures and health outcomes will be thoroughly investigated and reported, such as lifestyle, behavioural, environmental, socioeconomic and demographic factors, as well as other conditions like maternal weight gain, gestational diabetes, premature birth, pre-eclampsia, and caesarean delivery. Additional research areas include birth complications, birth weight, malformations, breastfeeding, infant growth, development, childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes as well as injuries, cognitive function and mental health.
According to Dr Iffat Elbarazi, the project manager of Mutaba’ah, the team needs another one to one and a half years to complete its target number of 10,000 participants. “We have a list of research questions being answered with our data currently, with first set of publications is already under review and more publications are in the pipeline” she said.
Mutaba’ah will provide a pioneering platform for maternal and child health research in the UAE. The study will initiate and constitute a data repository for researchers to relate different health outcomes of the mother and the child to a variety of maternal and early-life exposures. It will also provide novel research-based local evidences of the burden, risks, and projections of maternal and child health. This evidence can be translated into health policies and practices to improve the health status and services for mothers and children, and to guide future plans for health services and expenditures in the UAE. Ultimately, Mutaba’ah aims to have a crucial impact on the health and quality of life of the Emirati population.
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