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Building UK infrastructure for research that benefits infants, children and young people
  1. Christopher J M Whitty1,2
  1. 1 Department of Health and Social Care, National Institute for Health Research, London, UK
  2. 2 Clinical Research Department, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Christopher J M Whitty, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel St, London WC1E 7HT, UK; chris.whitty{at}dh.gsi.gov.uk

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Any area of medicine advances due to research in previous years, and paediatrics and child health is an excellent example of this. With research conducted now, child health in the future will continue to improve; without adequate research we are doomed to stagnate, and in some areas go backwards. Looking at the health of children both nationally and globally over the last four decades, the impact of research has been remarkable. Globally, we are seeing one of the fastest reductions in child mortality ever seen anywhere. Global neonatal and child mortality fell substantially in every age band over the last 35 years.1 This global improvement was driven by a combination of research and international development. In higher income countries the last decades have also seen a remarkable drop in mortality in neonates, children and adolescents; for example, a 58% drop in mortality in children aged 5–14 in Europe, and major improvements in all ages of children in the UK.2 3 Multiple types of research have contributed to this, from the most basic and translational science which helps to develop targets for new drugs and clinical techniques, through clinical and epidemiological studies and onto operational research which helps ensure the best science is taken up in practice.

From improvements in survival in neonates to the massively improved prognosis for children born with cystic fibrosis4 and other genetic diseases multiple lines of science have led to incremental changes which when added together substantially improve outcome. Many children are alive now because of research undertaken in the last few years. There are also data from multiple directions demonstrating that patients enrolled in research studies are likely to do better.5 There are therefore clear current advantages to individual patients as well as to future children to more clinical research being undertaken. …

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