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The University of Southampton
Medicine

LifeLab

The LifeLab

LifeLab is a science education intervention designed to change young people's attitudes and behaviour towards their own and others health.

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I thought they would be in lab coats like you see on the films, but they spoke to us, like they were a child wanting to find stuff out as well.

LifeLab is an innovative educational intervention based in Southampton, aiming to improve young people's health and inspire an interest in science.

Background

Research in the National Institute for Health Research funded Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle Biomedical Research Unit and Medicine at the University of Southampton has identified the importance of early development prenatally and in infancy on long-term health as well as the importance of how both a mother's and father's diet and general health can impact on their child's lifelong health.

There is now a growing agenda for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle in young people in relation to prevention of diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, immunity, cardiovascular, respiratory and osteoporosis. These chronic diseases come at a significant socio-economic cost and prevention of them not only benefits the individuals at risk, but reduces the pressure on limited health resources. Coupled with these insights is an increasing recognition of the role of health literacy in enabling people to exert greater control over their health and the factors that shape health.

School Visits

LifeLab is an innovative, cross-community educational intervention that develops, delivers and evaluates a number of educational programmes tailored to school students (11-18) that demonstrate the importance of diet, development and impact on Lifelong Health across a number of areas (cardiovascular, diabetes, osteoporosis) based on our world-leading research. By engaging children with the science that shows how lifestyle choices at an early age can affect health and future children's health, we hope to empower them to make healthier choices and reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases later in life.

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LifeLab Module

The LifeLab work module, comprises pre and post-visit lessons to be delivered in school, interspersed with a day at LifeLab for:

  • hands-on practical activities to embed messages about maternal and childhood nutritional influences
  • opportunities to experience modern science to inspire students with the excitement of research and future career possibilities
  • opportunities to talk with research scientists, in a "Meet the Scientist" session to explore or challenge their views of scientists

The approach enhances rather than replaces the school experience, enabling students to appreciate the relevance of modern science and aims to inspire them with the excitement of research and the possibilities for future careers.

Purpose

The purpose of scientific research in the field of medicine is to improve human health. Such research generally begins in the lab, this basic research must then be translated into medical practice, whether it is prevention, treatment or cure. We feel that a missing component to this is the effective translation of the understanding of this research to the people whom it is for. LifeLab is part of Medicine's enterprise activity in terms of outreach in order to address this concern.

Feedback

The feedback from the schools has been hugely positive, and after attending the LifeLab activities, students have demonstrated a significantly improved awareness that nutrition during early development can affect future health, and that lifestyles of both parents can affect the health of their children.

Funding

Funding from the EPSRC, enabled us with a relatively small budget to produce educational resources for use in schools directly based on the research being carried out in the Faculty of Medicine and to run the LifeLab day for a limited number of students.

Widening Access to Medicine residential event

The University of Southampton is running a residential event aimed at students in Year 12 who want to study Medicine at university, who will need to apply through a widening access programme.

Taking place from 4 – 6 April 2016, it aims to increase students’ knowledge of the role of doctors and the training they undergo. The deadline for applications is 22 January 2016. Find out more about the event here.

Key facts

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Educating Young People for Lifelong Health

LifeLab is a unique, state-of-the-art teaching laboratory dedicated to improving adolescent health by giving school students opportunities to learn first-hand the science behind the health messages.

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LifeLab Pupils
LifeLab Pupils
LifeLab Pupils
LifeLab Pupils
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