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New First Exposure initiative provides critical resources for maternal, reproductive and child health in Ontario

May 19/2022

A new information hub and research network at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health will fill crucial gaps in health care for mothers and infants.

Thanks to a $5-million investment from the Vohra Miller Foundation, the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health is launching a groundbreaking network dedicated to maternal, reproductive and early child health. First Exposure will support research, education and knowledge generation, as well as synthesis and translation activities—helping parents, children, and their families.

First Exposure will remove barriers to access and provide parents with crucial health information. It will focus in particular on fetal, neonatal and infantile exposures to various medications, non-medicinal substances, maternal diseases, the rapidly changing ecosystem in our environment, and the social determinants of health.

“First Exposure will draw from U of T’s world-leading expertise in public health to improve the health of parents, infants and children across Canada, especially those in marginalized, vulnerable and underserved populations,” says Meric Gertler, President of the University of Toronto. “On behalf of the University of Toronto, I would like to thank Sabina Vohra-Miller, Craig Miller, and the Vohra Miller Foundation for their vision, leadership and generosity in making this very hopeful initiative possible.”

First Exposure is an innovative new resource that will have a tremendous impact on the health of Canadians

As an information hub, First Exposure will provide easy-to-access and up-to-date information for families and health-care providers—with a focus on underserved and remote communities. It will also collect and provide secure, anonymous patient data to scientists who can translate research, fill relevant knowledge gaps, and improve timely decision-making abilities for parents, health practitioners, and the public health and health-care systems.

As an academic research network, First Exposure will support trainees in maternal health, reproductive health and early-life exposure research, and provide support to researchers undertaking important new studies and projects. It will also drive partnerships and innovations across the University of Toronto, the Toronto Academic Health Science Network, Black and Indigenous health organizations, and industry, hospital and government partners—all with a view to supporting communities in raising healthy, thriving children.

“We’ve long known that positive long-term health outcomes are influenced by maternal health—and throughout the very first months of life,” says Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “The Vohra Miller Foundation recognized the expertise and capacity at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health to make a real difference and, with this visionary investment, will help our researchers and clinicians strengthen maternal, reproductive and child health for Canadians.

“First Exposure is an innovative new resource that will have a tremendous impact on both the short and long-term health of Canadians. On behalf of the Dalla Lana School, and the thousands of beneficiaries of this investment, our deepest thanks to Sabina and Craig, and the Vohra Miller Foundation, for their leadership.”

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