January 7 | 2019

Born to be Wise: a population registry data linkage protocol to assess the impact of modifiable early-life environmental exposures on the health and development of children. 

van den Bosch M, Brauer M, Burnett R, Davies HW, Davis Z, Guhn M, Jarvis I, Nesbitt L, Oberlander T, Rugel E, Sbihi H, Su JG, Jerrett M.

BMJ Open. 2018 Dec 14;8(12):e026954. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026954



Deficiencies in childhood development is a major global issue and inequalities are large. The influence of environmental exposures on childhood development is currently insufficiently explored. This project will analyse the impact of various modifiable early life environmental exposures on different dimensions of childhood development.


Born to be Wise will study a Canadian cohort of approximately 34 000 children who have completed an early development test at the age of 5. Land use regression models of air pollution and spatially defined noise models will be linked to geocoded data on early development to analyse any harmful effects of these exposures. The potentially beneficial effect on early development of early life exposure to natural environments, as measured by fine-grained remote sensing data and various land use indexes, will also be explored. The project will use data linkages and analyse overall and age-specific impact, including variability depending on cumulative exposure by assigning time-weighted exposure estimates and by studying subsamples who have changed residence and exposure. Potentially moderating effects of natural environments on air pollution or noise exposures will be studied by mediation analyses. A matched case-control design will be applied to study moderating effects of natural environments on the association between low socioeconomic status and early development. The main statistical approach will be mixed effects models, applying a specific software to deal with multilevel random effects of nested data. Extensive confounding control will be achieved by including data on a range of detailed health and sociodemographic variables.


The study protocol has been ethically approved by the Behavioural Research Ethics Board at the University of British Columbia. The findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at scholarly conferences. Through stakeholder engagement, the results will also reach policy and a broader audience.