Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO)

From conception through early childhood we experience critical developmental windows of susceptibility when we are especially vulnerable to the effects of pollutants, chemicals, stress, poor diet, and sleep deprivation. These exposures can alter a range of biological processes such as the expression of genes or development of the immune system—and the health effects of these impacts can be long-lasting. To better understand how a wide range of environmental factors can affect a child’s future health, the National Institutes of Health has launched a seven-year, $157 million initiative, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO).

Through ECHO the NIH plans to fund existing and new pediatric studies that will assess the health of more than 50,000 children from diverse racial, geographic, and socio-economic backgrounds. These studies will focus mainly on factors that may influence the health and development of the nervous system and the upper and lower airway, as well as the risk of obesity. Ronald Wapner, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Research in Ob/Gyn, will be investigating the effects of prenatal and early childhood exposure to a variety of chemicals and nonchemical factors on two key health outcomes—obesity and neuroimpairment—in collaboration with investigators at the Medical University of South Carolina. 

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