Public Health Research

Statement of Research Interests 

In Asia, there is an imperative need to implement the practice of evidence-based public health policy, planning, and spending. My earlier and ongoing research provides the appropriate evidence, which can guide the formulation of policy to bring in positive change that we can see in our lifetime. I am focused shaping my career towards independence and in building a long-term career in academic public health. Therefore, my future research plan is dedicated to exploring the impact of tackling determinants in the maternal and psychosocial environment and thereby promote positive health in populations through appropriate interventions.


  1. Generating evidence regarding maternal and psychosocial environment of NCDs
  2. Explore the appropriate interventions through pilot projects
  3. Ensuring evidence-based public health policy planning and implementation

Objectives (a) and (b) help in identification and prioritization of maternal determinants of childhood obesity (and subsequent risk of diabetes and hypertension) in Asia.  The evidence available in the next three years will aid in the generation of rigorous, feasible and contextually specific population-based pilot interventions. The objective (c) will be achieved through the implementation of pilot interventions based on objectives (a) & (b). The three objectives together will contribute to logical and empirically grounded choices of public health interventions.

In the next few years, I want to pilot the interventions based on the results of the research on the role of the maternal and psychosocial environment of NCDs in different populations. The overall results from testing the interventions will result in the implementation of evidence-based public health. In the next 5 years, I wish to inculcate the evidence into policy formulations at the national and international level to influence policymakers to bring positive changes with respect to NCD prevention and control. Due to demographic transition and lifestyle changes, the aging Asian populations continually are affected by NCDs. My engagement of research and advocacy in NCDs will aid in improving the health of an aging population and improve productivity. I am uniquely positioned to study the effects from an intergenerational perspective and earnestly believe that the positive changes will see the transformation of societies in the next two decades. Therefore, my long-term goal is to ensure healthy populations are sustained through integrated technical and advocacy efforts. My track record of working in public health over 17 years has provided a clear resolve for the achieving the objectives listed above.

Ongoing Research Projects.

  1. Maternal Antecedents of Adiposity and Studying the Transgenerational role of Hyperglycemia and Insulin (MAASTHI): a prospective cohort study. Funded by Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance: Link1 Link2 Link3
  2. Full meal supplementation: Evaluation of Effect in Pregnant and Lactating women (FEEL): Funded by Department of Women and Child, Government of Karnataka
  3. Ambient and Indoor Air Pollution in Pregnancy on the risk of Low birth weight and Ensuing Effects in Infants (APPLE); A cohort study in South India.  Funded by Department of Science & Technology, Government of India

Details of the Ongoing Research Projects

  1. Maternal Antecedents of Adiposity and Studying the Transgenerational role of Hyperglycemia and Insulin (MAASTHI): a prospective cohort study. Funded by Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance: Link1 LinkLink3

India is experiencing an epidemic of obesity-hyperglycaemia, which can be sustained and augmented through transgenerational transmission of adiposity and glucose intolerance in women. This presents an opportunity for exploring a clear strategy for the control of this epidemic in India. We conducted a study between November 2013 and May 2015 to inform the design of a large pregnancy cohort study. Based on the findings of this pilot, Currently, we are recruiting women in a birth cohort since April 2016. The protocol of the study documents the processes which aim at advancing the available knowledge, linking several steps in the evolution of obesity led hyperglycemia.

Maternal Antecedents of Adiposity and Studying the Transgenerational role of Hyperglycemia and Insulin (MAASTHI) is a cohort study in the public health facilities in Bangalore, India. The objective of MAASTHI is to prospectively assess the effects of glucose levels in pregnancy on the risk of adverse infant outcomes, especially in predicting the possible risk markers of later chronic diseases. The primary objective of the proposed study is to investigate the effect of glucose levels in pregnancy on skinfold thickness (adiposity) in infancy as a marker of future obesity and diabetes in offspring. The secondary objective is to assess the association between the psychosocial environment of mothers and adverse neonatal outcomes including adiposity. The study aims to recruit 5000 pregnant women and follow them and their offspring for a period of 4 years.

The carbohydrate ‘fuel’ metabolism in a pregnant woman may have a long-term impact on the development of her offspring (‘fuel-mediated teratogenesis’ hypothesis) including in utero exposure to maternal hyperglycemia leading to fetal hyperinsulinemia, and the consequent increase in fetal fat cells. Therefore, a feed-forward loop can exist of rising adiposity and hyperinsulinemia throughout childhood, perhaps leading to obesity and diabetes in later life. There is a need for prospective examination of body fat distribution in children born to mothers with different glycemic levels to understand the plausible association between glucose metabolism and future risk of diabetes in offspring.

We published detailed protocols of the study and pilot in open access peer-reviewed journals. (BMC,  BMJOpen)  In order to extend the recruitment, complete the follow-up and create a bio-repository, I have been awarded intermediate fellowship from Wellcome trust-DBT India alliance. With the funding support of WT-DBT India alliance, I am currently expanding the cohort study to aim to recruit more than 3000 pregnant women. Extending the study to multiple centers will provide the robust data for valid inferences.


  • The knowledge from this study may be extremely important for developing an effective strategy for the control of the obesity-hyperglycaemia epidemic in low-income and middle-income countries. The results from our study can provide insights into the relation of adiposity during infancy and childhood into adult adiposity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM).
  • We have been able to recruit more than 700 pregnant women. All women have undergone Hb and OGTT (Fasting and 2 Hr PPBS with 75g glucose).
  • Additional funding requests are underway for expansion of the birth cohort and for testing the additional hypotheses.

Publications from this project are as follows:- (also visit, publications)

  • Babu, G. R., Garadi, L., Murthy, G. V. S., & Kinra, S. (2014). Effect of hyperglycemia in pregnancy on adiposity in their infants in India: a protocol of a multicentre cohort study. BMJ open, 4(6), e005417.
  • Babu, G R., B. Tejaswi, M. Kalavathi, G. M. Vatsala, G. V. S. Murthy, Sanjay Kinra, and Sara E. Benjamin Neelon. “Assessment of screening practices for gestational hyperglycemia in public health facilities: a descriptive study in Bangalore, India.” Journal of Public Health Research 4, no. 1 (2015).
  • Babu GR, Murthy GV, Deepa R, Kumar HK, Karthik M, Deshpande K, Neelon SE, Prabhakaran D, Kurpad A, Kinra S. Maternal antecedents of adiposity and studying the transgenerational role of hyperglycemia and insulin (MAASTHI): a prospective cohort study. BMC pregnancy and childbirth. 2016 Oct 14;16(1):311.
  • Giridhara R Babu, GVS Murthy, R Deepa, A Yamuna, Nolita Saldanha, Prafulla Shriyan, Maithili Karthik, Keerthi Deshpande, Sara E Benjamin Neelon, Anura Kurpad, Sanjay Kinra. Screening for Gestational Hyperglycemia in Public Hospitals: Baseline Results from piloting MAASTHI, a Cohort Study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (In Press)
  • “Association of Obesity with hypertension and Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus in India A meta-analysis of observational studies”  (In Peer review)
  • Two more papers in review

2. Full meal supplementation: Evaluation of Effect in Pregnant and Lactating women (FEEL): Funded by Department of Women and Child, Government of Karnataka 

Understanding the relation between maternal nutrition and birth outcomes provides a basis for developing nutritional interventions that will improve- birth outcomes, childhood growth and development long-term quality of life and reduce mortality, morbidity, and health-care costs. To address the issue of maternal undernutrition and consequential adverse effects on birth outcomes or growth of children, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Karnataka is piloting a new strategy on the provision of One full meal served to Pregnant and Lactating mothers at AWC along with IFA supplement in order to ensure consumption the food meeting 40% of the day’s nutrient requirement. This initiative provides a unique opportunity to understand the impact of nutritious food on pregnancy outcome and child development.

 Primary Objective The overall aim of the intervention study is to study the impact of hot fully cooked meals provided to pregnant women in improving pregnancy and infant outcomes.

Secondary Objectives

  • To estimate the impact of the intervention on change in mean Hb% in the intervention arm compared to control arm.
  • To estimate the impact of the intervention on weight for length in the intervention arm compared to control arm.

3. Ambient and Indoor Air Pollution in Pregnancy on the risk of Low birth weight and Ensuing Effects in Infants (APPLE); A cohort study in South India.  Funded by Department of Science & Technology, Government of India

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