Prof Corinna Walsh
Prof Corinna Walsh
Photo: Johan Roux

The early childhood environment impact on health

Prof Corinna Walsh introduction: video

Prof Corinna Walsh introduction: video

Globally, it has become apparent that health in both children and adults is closely related to the early environment that children are exposed to during pregnancy and early childhood, says Prof Corinna Walsh of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and an NRF C-rated researcher.

She has a keen interest in health research, specifically nutrition and health epidemiology. She has initiated three large-scale health and nutrition-related surveys that have been instrumental in determining the burden of disease in the Free State, related to both infectious diseases and lifestyle diseases. The morbidity and mortality resulting from these diseases have reached epidemic proportions in developing countries like South Africa, and are thus an important area of investigation.

The focus of her research is on nutritional health, HIV, malnutrition, food security, and transitions from traditional to Western lifestyles and how these impact on health. Collaboration with co-workers from Basic Medical Sciences, Chemical Pathology, Haematology, Biostatistics, and others ensures a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research.

Her datasets have been included in three international meta-analyses to answer key questions related to cardiovascular risk in HIV-infected and uninfected people. These have been published in high-impact journals such as BMC Medicine and International Journal of Epidemiology.

She says the study of the early environment can contribute to understanding the mechanisms by which disease manifests later in life. In this regard, she has initiated a birth cohort study within the Faculty of Health Sciences. This multidisciplinary longitudinal study will investigate the short- and long-term consequences of early environment in a group of mothers and children from the Free State for years to come.

Prof Walsh has received the Nutrition Society Best Young Scientist Award and the Association for Dietetics Community Dietetics Award. She serves on the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and is a council member of the Nutrition Society of South Africa. Between 2005 and 2010, she served on the Board of the Medical Research Council, gaining valuable experience in health research and research administration.

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