This is part four of a six-part feature on members of the Faculty of Health Sciences advancing human health with partners in Africa.  

Promoting health in mothers and babies around the world is a priority for Deborah Sloboda.

Sloboda is a Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Programming and an associate professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University. She is an investigator on an intervention cohort study focused on reducing transgenerational risk of obesity and metabolic disease in the disadvantaged urban area of Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa.  

"In Soweto, more than 30 per cent of women enter pregnancy overweight or obese. Women have high rates of gestational diabetes, anemia and depression, and high rates of giving birth to low birth weight babies," she says.

"Soweto represents a vulnerable population, and this community-based intervention study aims to improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged women before and during pregnancy to improve health outcomes in their children."

The five-year study is called the Building Knowledge and a Foundation for Healthy Life Trajectories in South Africa: A Preconception Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) Intervention Cohort. Funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, it began in 2017.

The program is a partnership between a South African group led by Shane Norris from Wits University and a Canadian contingent led by Stephen Lye of the University of Toronto.

"Dr. Norris and Dr. Lye have established a strong, multi-disciplinary team of investigators and knowledge users to support women and children in reaching healthy life trajectories to address issues of chronic non-communicable diseases, including obesity and related conditions," says Sloboda. 

Sloboda notes that a healthy start to life, beginning in the womb, and growth and development during the first 2,000 days of life, underpins health and wellbeing throughout early childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Read other articles in this series:

05/02/2018 Advancing health in Africa: Building the first medical school in Namibia
05/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Using rehabilitation to help those living with HIV in Zambia
06/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Nurturing psychiatrists in Uganda
06/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Supporting healthy life trajectories in South Africa
07/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Mentoring subspecialists from Uganda in Hamilton
07/02/2018 - Advancing health in Africa: Giving pregnant women the right to safe deliveries in Uganda

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