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Best Mix For Kids

$95 million NIH grant establishes a premier child health study.

By Jackie Powder

From the womb to the playground, what is the optimal mix of environmental conditions—physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral—to give children the best chance of becoming healthy adults?

In search of answers and with the support of $95 million in NIH funding, the Bloomberg School will lead the data analysis for a major initiative to examine how environmental factors influence children’s health.

“By understanding the impact of environmental exposures that occur during pregnancy through early childhood, as well as how they interact with societal factors, behavior and genetics, we can better understand what factors promote a healthy childhood and adolescence,” says EpidemiologyProfessor Lisa Jacobson, ScD ’95, MS ’86, who will lead the Data Analysis Center for the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) study.

ECHO, a seven-year effort, will analyze data from existing cohorts, totaling 50,000 U.S. children from diverse racial, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, to better understand the role of early influences on obesity, asthma, autism, birth defects and other conditions.

Jacobson notes that many different environmental exposures—from air pollution and chemicals to factors like stress, sleep and diet—have the potential to affect children’s health, and exposures during critical periods of early childhood development could have long-lasting effects.

The School will work with RTI International, which will oversee data management.