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The power of one: How participating in a health research study makes a difference

Isaac Anokye-Agyei is enrolled in a nutritional study at the University of Minnesota.
As a healthy, full-term newborn, Isaac Anokye-Agyei was enrolled in a nutritional study at the University of Minnesota that compares the growth and development of full-term and preterm babies.
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He’s only 4 years old, but Isaac Anokye-Agyei has already accomplished a lot in his young life—by helping improve the health of preterm babies.

As a healthy, full-term newborn, Isaac was enrolled in a nutritional study at the University of Minnesota that compares the growth and development of full-term and preterm babies.

His mother, Jennifer Lobulu, learned of the study while she was pregnant and wanted to help with the neonatal research initiative, which is led by Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Neonatologist Sara Ramel, MD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology Ellen W. Demerath, PhD, and Neonatology Fellow Johannah Scheurer, MD.

“We hope to better understand how early nutrition and illness influence growth and development in the long term,” Ramel said. “And we hope this study will allow us to develop different nutritional interventions that can improve outcomes for the next generation of babies.”

The 130 children participating in the study were measured at birth and age 3 to 4 months, and they are now undergoing extensive developmental testing in preschool. The preschool portion of the study is funded by Ben’s Buddies, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support the neonatology program at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The fund was created in honor of Benjamin Walker Hanson, who was born prematurely and died from a rare lymphatic disorder.

To learn more about University of Minnesota pediatric nutrition studies or how to participate, visit the Center for Neurobehavioral Development.

A lot more research is needed to improve lifelong outcomes for preterm babies, Ramel said, and the entire field of neonatology can greatly benefit from studies such as this one, which is a joint effort of the Department of Pediatrics’ Division of Neonatology and the Department of Epidemiology and Community Health.

“We’re extremely grateful to families for taking time out of their busy schedules to help us,” Ramel said. “We’re really hopeful that we can discover new and innovative ways to improve both the health and development of these vulnerable babies.”

Not only can research of this nature affect the clinical care that patients receive and lead to new innovations, it is also is an opportunity for those involved in the study to give back to their communities.

Isaac’s involvement makes his mother proud: “Through one person, others can benefit,” she said.

Want to support Ben's Buddies and the fellowship program? Contact University of Minnesota Health Neonatologist Catherine Bendel, MD, at bende001@umn.edu.

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