What is the Seychelles Child Development Study?
The Seychelles Child Development Study (SCDS) is a research project involving the Ministries of Health and Education in Seychelles, the University of Ulster in Ireland, and the University of Rochester in the United States. The study began in the mid-1980s with two main aims: evaluating the development of children in Seychelles, and finding out if the low levels of mercury in the fish diet during pregnancy can have an effect on the development of the child. The study is completely separate from the normal services that are offered by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education.
What Have Been the Main Findings of the SCDS?
The SCDS has shown that Seychellois children have a normal range of development when compared to children in developed countries. So far, we have not found clear evidence of abnormal or delayed development in children as a result of their mother’s consumption of fish during pregnancy.
Why are We Studying Children’s Developments?
The research project provides useful information that allows scientists, clinicians and all those providing services for children to evaluate the state of health and development of children. This helps to develop national standards for services aimed at promoting and monitoring child development. It also helps to detect children with abnormal or delayed development so that services can be developed and provided for their special needs.
Why are We Studying Mercury?
Mercury is known to be harmful to health. However, it is not known whether the level of mercury (in a form called methyl mercury) which occurs in fish has a bad effect on child development from the mother eating fish during pregnancy. We know that many fish contain methyl mercury. So far we have not seen any adverse effects of this exposure. We need to continue the study in different groups of Seychellois mothers and children to see whether such effects may become apparent later on (e.g. when the child is an adolescent) and to see whether others things in the Seychellois diet may protect against mercury.
Why is the Study Taking Place in the Republic of Seychelles?
Seychellois citizens eat an average of about 8 meals per week which contain fish or fish products. This level of consumption is much greater than most other nations and cultures around the world, so the Seychelles might be considered a sentinel population of fish consumers. There are many social and cultural advantages to life in the Seychelles, including free education, free medical care, and as a result, many of the factors that might adversely influence child development in other countries are not present in the Seychelles.