The National Institutes of Health (NIH), including NIEHS, is expanding efforts to understand how the environment can affect children’s health and development with a new research initiative, announced Dec. 7, titled Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO).
As an NIH wide program, ECHO will facilitate research on the short-term and long-term impacts of environmental exposures on children’s health, by using existing study populations, or cohorts, that include children. This approach has goals similar to the former National Children’s Study, but capitalizes on research networks that are already in place.
A unique opportunity
“ECHO is a unique opportunity to combine and coordinate data from a variety of existing cohorts so we can address research questions on early life exposures and several key pediatric outcomes,” said Kimberly Gray, Ph.D., NIEHS health scientist administrator and member of the ECHO working group. “That way we can look at early life exposure to environmental influences, for example, chemical exposures in the womb and later health effects that develop.”
ECHO will focus on four high-impact public health outcomes — obesity, neurodevelopment, upper and lower respiratory disease, and birth outcomes, including prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal development. Environmental influences will be broadly defined to include physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral, natural, and built environments.
ECHO includes seven funding opportunities. Letters of Intent are due on March 15, and applications are due on April 15. In addition, the NIEHS-led Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource will be expanded to support analysis of biological samples for ECHO.
David Balshaw, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Exposure, Response, and Technology Branch, and Claudia Thompson, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Population Health Branch, are also members of the ECHO working group.
(Virginia Guidry, Ph.D., is a technical writer and public information specialist in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)