Improving health and reducing inequalities: we need to start much earlier!

18/01/2022 12:00 pm to 18/01/2022 12:30 pm

Event Details

The first thousand days, creating a healthy foundation to support a lifetime of wellbeing.

About this event

We all want the population and environments of the North East and North Cumbria to be healthier and happier. We want to see an economically thriving region taking opportunities that the post-pandemic period has to offer.


We know that our population starts from a difficult point. From heart disease, to cancer, to depression and poor mental health. There is a gap of as much as ten years between parts of our region and areas in the country with the longest life expectancy. Many people are also living several of these shortened years with disability and illness.


So how can NHIP, and partners across the region, work to radically improve health and wellbeing for our population? We think that a revolution in thinking is required. That we must start “early”. By which we mean, prevention, and promoting health and wellbeing from the very earliest moments of pre-conception, through pregnancy, and those crucial pre-school years allowing every individual to meet their potential.


In this talk Sunil Bhopal and Niina Kolehmainen will lay out the evidence for this approach, showing why individuals and organisations across health, education, social-care, and the justice sector agree with the economists that return on investment in this early period cannot be beaten. We will remind the audience of the immense contributions the people of the region have already made to the field of early-life and life-course health, and put forward an ambitious vision for the next 15 years.



Dr Niina Kolehmainen, is an allied health population scientist leading research into childhood health behaviours and their impact on health and well-being. She is particularly interested in innovations that support health behaviours to promote life-course health. Her group seeks to push the boundaries of current knowledge and thinking around child health, and to inform practice, policy and commissioning.

Niina also leads the Reproduction, Development and Child Health Theme at the Newcastle University Faculty of Medical Sciences. This is an active community of around 40 academics and practitioners from biosciences to clinical and translational medicine to population health. Niina and other colleagues in the theme are also founding members of the KERNEL collaborative that leads interdisciplinary research and practice innovation to advance healthier lives from early on. As an Academy of Medical Sciences FLIER, Niina is passionate about advancing cross-sector research and working across traditional disciplinary boundaries, and integrating diversity of views and expertise is core to her research.

Dr Sunil Bhopal, NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in Paediatrics at Newcastle University / Great North Children’s Hospital. Sunil has a broad clinical and research programme working to improve population health and wellbeing for young children in the UK and in low- and middle-income countries. He focusses on the early years through pregnancy and the pre-school years because of the foundations optimising health in this period provides to lifelong wellbeing.

Dr Bhopal has undergraduate degrees in International Health and Medicine (Leeds) and a masters in clinical research (Newcastle). His PhD, funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship, was based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with a thesis examining early childhood stress and development in a rural Indian population. He was formerly chair of the International Child Health Group, a specialty group of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health. He is a board member at The Children’s Foundation, Foundation Years Information & Research, NENC ICS Child Health & Wellbeing Network, and a local secondary school.

Newcastle Health Innovation Partners

This event is hosted by Newcastle Health Innovation Partners, one of eight Academic Health Science Centres in the UK, bringing together world-class research, education and clinical practice for the benefits of the region.