The National Institutes of Health this week announced a team of researchers headed by Janice Sullivan, MD, of the University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics, is among grant recipients nationwide receiving funding for a 7-year, multicenter initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). The ECHO program will investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development influences the health of children and adolescents.
Sullivan is the chief and medical director of the Kosair Charities Pediatric Clinical Research Unit in UofL’s Department of Pediatrics. The UofL award totals $1,673,259 to fund a multiple investigator team program titled “The Kentucky Pediatric Clinical Trials Rural/Urban Partnership.”
“Our team of experienced pediatric clinician-investigators and clinical trial specialists is excited to expand our participation in collaborative multicenter studies that can identify the environmental origins of pediatric diseases and test therapies to treat and prevent disease,” said Department of Pediatrics Vice Chair for Research Brad Keller, MD. “The research funding announced today will help us continue to find the cures of tomorrow, enabling children in Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond to live longer, healthier lives.”
The ECHO program will investigate environmental exposures from conception through early childhood. Experiences during sensitive developmental windows – around the time of conception, later in pregnancy and during infancy and early childhood – can have long-lasting effects on the health of children. These experiences encompass a broad range of exposures, from air pollution and chemicals found in neighborhoods, to societal factors such as stress, to individual behaviors like sleep and diet. They may act through any number of biological processes, for example changes in the expression of genes or development of the immune system.
A critical component of ECHO will be to use the NIH-funded Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program to build state-of-the art pediatric clinical research networks in rural and medically-underserved areas so that children from these communities can participate in clinical trials. Sullivan’s award falls in this category.
The awards announced will build the infrastructure and capacity for the ECHO program to support multiple, synergistic longitudinal studies that extend and expand existing cohort studies of mothers and their children. ECHO research will focus on factors that may influence health outcomes around the time of birth as well as into later childhood and adolescence, including upper and lower airway health and development, obesity and brain and nervous system development.
“Every baby should have the best opportunity to remain healthy and thrive throughout childhood,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “ECHO will help us better understand the factors that contribute to optimal health in children.”
For complete details about the ECHO program, see the NIH announcement.