Professor César Victora, a Wellcome Investigator, has been awarded the prestigious John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award 2017 for his work on maternal and child health in low- and middle-income countries.
The award recognises Professor Victora’s contributions to child health and nutrition, health programme monitoring and evaluation, and health equity.
His key achievement has been his work on cohort studies. He helped set up the 1982 Pelotas Birth Cohort, in Brazil, one of the world's longest running birth cohort studies. It is still monitoring around 6,000 individuals, and has been followed by further cohort studies set up in 1993 and 2004.
Professor Victora's research helped to demonstrate the impact of the first 1,000 days of life on influencing lifelong outcomes, in particular the importance of breastfeeding for preventing infant mortality.
These findings contributed to global policy recommendations from the WHO and UNICEF that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
More recently, evidence from the three Pelotas birth cohorts has shown the benefits of breastfeeding on intelligence, education, and income, as well as the long-term consequences of poor nutrition early in life.
Professor Victora, who is Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, is currently working on studying inequalities in reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health in low- and middle-income countries.
Using data from over 200 surveys from over 90 countries, with a total of about 1,000,000 children, he is investigating, within each country, what is happening in the most deprived communities to:
the poorest children
those living in remote rural areas
those born to mothers with no education in the most deprived communities.
He is also looking for gender bias.
The aim is to help improve health policies that affect the most vulnerable children in the world.