The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory College, the Rollins School of Public Health and the Emory School of Medicine are collaborative recipients of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) seven-year initiatives called Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) that supports research that investigates the effects of early environmental exposures on child health and development. For the initial two-year project period, Emory will receive $2.48 million of the $157 million award from NIH.
Principal investigator Anne Dunlop, MD, MPH, and multi-principal investigators Elizabeth Corwin, PhD, RN, and Patricia Brennan, PhD, will lead a team of Emory collaborators to examine the adverse environmental exposures and health consequences that disproportionately impact African American women and children, including preterm birth, delayed neurocognitive development, and obesity. The award builds upon on-going research studies at Emory that include, The Maternal Microbiome Project, The Epigenetics of Preterm Birth Project, the Infant Microbiome Project, and several interconnected research projects from the Emory Center for Children's Health, the Environmental, the Microbiome and Metabolomics.
"Our collective goal is to use this sociodemographically diverse Atlanta ECHO cohort of African American mothers and children to examine their environmental exposures during the critical prenatal and early childhood periods that can result in lifelong health consequences," explains Dunlop who is also an associate research professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. "Both adverse exposure and their health consequences disproportionately impact African American women and children, highlighting that health disparities begin in utero and are amplified throughout a child's development."
Emory's pediatric cohort is also congruent with the goal of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of promoting understanding of the biological mechanisms involved in conditions that disproportionately affect health disparity populations. The research and participation in the ECHO consortium is consistent with frameworks for eliminating racial disparities and addresses the need to study riskswithin-race as a vital step.
"I'm very excited to work with many of our nation's best scientists to tackle vital unanswered questions about child health and development," said ECHO Program Director Matthew W. Gillman, M.D. "I believe we have the right formula of cohorts, clinical trials and supporting resources, including a range of new tools and measures, to help figure out which factors may allow children to achieve the best health outcomes over their lifetimes."