McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

INCHing towards children's good health

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: November 20, 2013
Testing child’s aerobic fitness on treadmill Testing child’s fine motor skills Research assistant testing baby’s cognitive abilities The Infant and Children Health (INCH) laboratory in the Department of Family Medicine located at the McMaster Innovation Park The Infant and Children Health (INCH) laboratory in the Department of Family Medicine located at the McMaster Innovation Park The Infant and Children Health (INCH) laboratory in the Department of Family Medicine located at the McMaster Innovation Park

Both parents and researchers are gaining valuable insights into the healthy growth and development of children at McMaster University's new INCH lab.

Located at the Department of Family Medicine at the McMaster Innovation Park, the Infant and Children Health (INCH) laboratory is a 2,000 square-foot facility committed to the health of children from newborn to six years old.

There are no sterile white lab coats here. In the fitness testing area are child-sized exercise bikes, treadmill and equipment to test heart rate and respirations in a colour setting. There is also space for office and parent meetings.

The focus of this child-friendly facility is children's healthy development, both mentally and physically, coupled with research and the design of new tools that detect when a child may not be reaching expected milestones.

The INCH lab is being formally launched Wednesday, November 20 which is designated National Child Day by the United Nations to globally celebrate children and raise awareness of children's rights.

Many of the labs community partners will be on hand with representatives from Ontario's Best Start program, public health, school boards and Early Years Centres.

One of the lab's goals is to focus on the whole child, to better understand development from the early years through childhood into adolescence.

John Cairney
Dr. John Cairney, director of INCH and professor, Department of Family Medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

"We will track children over time because that's what gives us a picture of whether a child is getting by, falling behind or thriving," said Dr. John Cairney, director of INCH and professor, Department of Family Medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

For example, he said, parents may be advised not to worry if a child doesn't take its first steps when expected.

"Sure, but let's not ignore it," said Cairney. "Let's monitor over time to ensure we identify delay and intervene appropriately. He added that parents can do many things to help their child reach its developmental milestones.

Currently, the INCH lab is recruiting 600 four-and-five-year-olds in its coordination and activity tracking in children (CATCH) study. Their coordination, physical activity and fitness will be tracked to better understand how they relate to each other over time.

The lab is also conducting a follow-up study with almost 800 parents who previously took part in a study of the development of their children when they were one month to six years of age.

The learning at the lab will be broadcast to others, Cairney said. "We are committed to working with government partners like the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, community agencies in Hamilton and our family health teams to try and get the knowledge we develop here disseminated."

As well as clinicians and researchers, INCH is training the next generation of researchers and clinician scientists drawing students from kinesiology, health and rehabilitation sciences.

The lab has received over $1.9 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

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