Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) study examining
hypotheses relating early life events to later
study was founded by Dr Sue Sayers in 1987
1989 Professor David Barker and his team
at Southampton published an article in the
Lancet that drew attention to the notion
that low birth weight babies had a greater
risk of developing a number of chronic diseases
including heart disease. This paper generated
huge international interest and a number
of major studies in this area.
Sayers originally started the cohort study to
examine the long term outcomes of Aboriginal babies
who were born growth retarded.
1989, Dr Sayers realized this cohort was an excellent
opportunity to examine hypotheses relating early
life events with chronic adult disease.
better understanding of chronic disease development
could lead to prevention of the high rates of
these diseases in the Aboriginal population.
facts about the health of Indigenous people
Heart disease deaths are between 7 and 10
times that of non-Indigenous Australians.
2. 10 to 30% have type 2 diabetes.
3. 25 to 30% are obese.
4. Renal disease rates highest in world
5. Life expectancy is 15 to 20 years less
than non-Indigenous Australians
are a number of well-known factors that lead to
higher rates of chronic disease.
Early programming. Permanent structural and
functional changes in response to fetal under
nutrition contributing to later chronic disease
Pathological processes. Post-streptococcal
infection related to rheumatic fever and post
streptococcal glomerulonephritis. Skin sores,
scabies, respiratory infections otitis media gastroenteritis
Life style factors. Poor housing, overcrowding,
poor education, low income, poor diet, smoking
and psycho-social wellbeing.
Sayers enrolled 686 Aboriginal babies and
their mothers into the Clan Cohort study
from across the Top End and beyond.
be eligible for this study a baby had to
be born at Royal Darwin Hospital between
January 1987 and March 1990 to a mother
recorded as Aboriginal in the Delivery Suite
maternal and child data were collected
major finding was that 25% of babies were growth
retarded. That is they were born small, but
children were then followed up when they were
about 11 years old. Dr Sayers and her team had
to travel to over 70 different locations.
were a number of challenges for the data collection.....
main results from 11 year follow-up were as follows:
of children were still alive and the study team
was able to follow up and examine 86% of living
Lung function, kidney size, insulin and glucose
concentrations were related to child size not
birth size. These results contradict the findings
from Professor Barker and his team.
It seems that smaller babies tended to become
There were significant urban/remote differences
where children living in remote areas were smaller
and had more health problems compared to children
in urban areas.
study will continue over the life span of the