Early life is an important window of opportunity to improve health across the full lifecycle. An accumulating body of evidence suggests that exposure to adverse stressors during early life leads to developmental adaptations, which subsequently affect disease risk in later life. Also, geographical, socio-economic, and ethnic differences are related to health inequalities from early life onwards. To address these important public health challenges, many European pregnancy and childhood cohorts have been established over the last 30 years. The enormous wealth of data of these cohorts has led to important new biological insights and important impact for health from early life onwards. The impact of these cohorts and their data could be further increased by combining data from different cohorts. Combining data will lead to the possibility of identifying smaller effect estimates, and the opportunity to better identify risk groups and risk factors leading to disease across the lifecycle across countries. Also, it enables research on better causal understanding and modelling of life course health trajectories. The EU Child Cohort Network, established by the Horizon2020-funded LifeCycle Project, brings together nineteen pregnancy and childhood cohorts, together including more than 250,000 children and their parents. A large set of variables has been harmonised and standardized across these cohorts. The harmonized data are kept within each institution and can be accessed by external researchers through a shared federated data analysis platform using the R-based platform DataSHIELD, which takes relevant national and international data regulations into account. The EU Child Cohort Network has an open character. All protocols for data harmonization and setting up the data analysis platform are available online. The EU Child Cohort Network creates great opportunities for researchers to use data from different cohorts, during and beyond the LifeCycle Project duration. It also provides a novel model for collaborative research in large research infrastructures with individual-level data. The LifeCycle Project will translate results from research using the EU Child Cohort Network into recommendations for targeted prevention strategies to improve health trajectories for current and future generations by optimizing their earliest phases of life.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Birth cohorts, Consortium, Exposome, Life course, Non-communicable diseases
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10654-020-00662-z, hdl.handle.net/1765/129228
Journal European Journal of Epidemiology
Jaddoe, V.W.V, Felix, J.F, Andersen, A-M.N, Charles, M.A, Chatzi, L, Corpeleijn, E. (Eva), … Rauschert, S. (Sebastian). (2020). The LifeCycle Project-EU Child Cohort Network: a federated analysis infrastructure and harmonized data of more than 250,000 children and parents. European Journal of Epidemiology. doi:10.1007/s10654-020-00662-z