Stephen Kennedy is a professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Oxford where he is also head of the Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health and co-director of the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute. His research is focused on the full spectrum of women’s health, including maternal and fetal health, reproductive medicine and genetics, and the study of cancer.
Kennedy is internationally recognized as a leader in the study and treatment of endometriosis, a gynecologic disorder that, according to estimates, affects nearly 200 million women worldwide. He provided his expertise in the design and validation of Oxford’s Endometriosis Health Profile, the first disease-specific Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) tool that uses self-reported data to measure the wide range of effects—from physical pain to emotional distress—endometriosis can have on women’s lives. The tool is used in numerous clinical trials to assess, in particular, the effectiveness of medical and surgical therapies for the condition.
Kennedy also co-leads INTERGROWTH-21st Project, a consortium of health institutions across 18 countries that, by examining fetal and newborn growth under both optimal and suboptimal conditions, aims to reduce millions of newborn deaths that occur as a result of preterm birth or poor intrauterine growth. The project is the largest, population‐based prospective study of fetal and newborn growth and development ever conducted, involving nearly 60,000 mothers and babies.
“Pediatricians have no problem with the idea of international standard for optimal growth from birth until the age of 5. All we have done is fill in the gap that exists from pregnancy to birth.”
In 2014, Kennedy’s work brought about a set of international standards for newborn weight, length, and head circumference based on data from over 4,600 healthy, well-nourished women with problem-free pregnancies from urban areas across eight countries. “There are currently over 100 different charts that are used to describe the growth of babies,” said Kennedy in an interview with New Scientist on the need for revised standards. “This lack of standardization increases anxiety, and can lead to intervention where intervention may not be required.”
Kennedy’s more recent work has shed light on indicators of neurodevelopment in early childhood and the impact good nutrition and healthcare in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can have on their physical and cognitive development—and whether that development is influenced more by genes or environment.
In addition to his work at Oxford and with INTERGROWTH-21st Project, Kennedy is a trustee of the World Endometriosis Research Foundation and has acted as an advisor to a number of pharmaceutical companies.