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THRIVE Research Centre

The THRIVE Research Centre researches and evaluates the interaction between factors and mechanisms that influence human survival, flourishing, and transformation in the early years (first 1000 days) of life.

Our unique contribution is our focus on positive outcomes across the life course, to discover what events in the early years are associated with human flourishing in later life. We focus on maximising wellbeing and human flourishing; follow up over time and across generations; observation and analysis methods; multi-discipline approaches and the integration of data.

Optimal maternal, infant, and child health is critical to longer term health and wellbeing for individuals, communities, and societies. It is increasingly evident that biological, psychological, emotional, interpersonal, nutritional and social milestones from conception onwards can influence the potential of individuals in the longer term and can even have an effect on several generations of a family. The time period from conception to an individual’s second birthday (‘first 1000’ days) is a crucial period of life that lays the foundations for optimal growth and development across a person’s lifespan.

Despite a rapid growth in research in this area, the focus has been mainly on pathology, with very little research that collects data on the salutogenic (the relationship between health, stress, and coping) end of the health continuum. It is not known which events and experiences might trigger social and individual wellbeing, resilience, positive human and environmental flourishing. We know little about environmental compared to individual (e.g. genetic) factors and their interaction which promotes resilience.

Our focus

We aim to describe and analyse the interaction between factors and mechanisms that influence human survival, flourishing, and transformation in the early years (first 1000 days) of life, and to implement and evaluate resulting solutions. This is done through a programme of research, innovation, and knowledge transfer that is focused on salutogenic factors, in the context of complex systems theory. Our unique contribution is our focus on positive outcomes across the life course, to answer the question, ‘what events in the early years are associated with human flourishing in later life?’

Our long term aim is to set up a programme of research that is focused on the molecular, physiological, biopsychosocial, environmental, social and cultural factors and mechanisms that create and shape human wellbeing, from prenatal through early years, childhood, adolescence and, consequently, throughout the life course.

In the first year, we will publish state-of-the-art papers, and begin to collect data that will underpin a prospective cohort study in this area. We are very interested in linking up with local people who want to contribute to our plans into the future. We also hope to run a monthly seminar series.

Our research has the following key elements:

  • Maximizing wellbeing and human flourishing
  • Follow up over time, and across generations
  • Methods that include observation and analysis of complex adaptive interactions between factors, systems, and mechanisms
  • Multi- and trans-disciplinary approaches
  • Integration of data at the micro (lab science), meso (application to people, families, society) and macro (policy) levels
  • The Babies Born Better project – an online survey available in over 20 languages examining the views and experiences of women who have given birth in the last 5 years. The aim is to become a major resource for the improvement of maternal and childbirth care around the world. By finding out what works, for whom and in what circumstances, the project data will provide insight into best practice during birth.
  • ASPIRE-COVID19: ‘Achieving Safe and Personalised maternity care In Response to Epidemics’. We aim to find out what has worked best in the UK and in the Netherlands to ensure safe and personalised care for mothers, babies, and partners during and after a pandemic.
  • THRIVE Small Grant Project: Impacts of Parenting Expectations on Health and Well-being
    This project aims to examine the impact of expectations that parents have about becoming and being a parent and how these impact on parental wellbeing. The project involves a systematic review of the literature and interviews with parents about the expectations they have about parenting. We hope this will lead to future work that will lead to a measurement of parenting expectations and establish the wellbeing impacts of unmet and met expectations about parenthood.

Academic expertise

News and events

  • World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Public Health Nursing and Midwifery. Centre theme lead, Dr Karen Whittaker, has been selected following a competitive process, to join the team of technical advisors to the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Public Health Nursing and Midwifery at Public Health England’s Chief Nurse Directorate.

Contact us

To find out more please contact Centre Co-Directors Professor Soo Downe or Dr Rebecca Nowland.