In an article published on November 22, 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) senior staff writer Jennifer Abbasi informs that on September 21, 2016 the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) have initiated funding a 7-year program called Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). ECHO aims to understand the effects of environmental exposures on children’s health and plans to enroll “roughly 50’000 children from existing pediatric cohorts at 34 U.S. institutions.” There will be a special focus on exposures during sensitive developmental windows, and the assessed health outcomes will cover obesity, respiratory illnesses, and neurodevelopment, among others. The results of the cohort studies will be used to inform clinical trials that will test promising risk-reduction approaches.

A strength of the ECHO program is its focus on “multiple, synergistic, longitudinal studies tapping into well-established and expanding clinical research networks,” as opposed to a forerunner single large cohort study, discontinued in 2014 due to feasibility issues.

One example of a new child health-related resource which will be co-funded by the ECHO program is CHEAR, short for Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource. It was launched on September 30, 2016 by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). As Virginia Guidry explains in her article published in the October 2016 issue of Environmental Factor, CHEAR will provide free laboratory testing and statistical consultation to “help NIH-funded researchers add measures of environmental conditions to children’s health studies.” Any NIH-funded researcher can apply to use CHEAR, but the priority will be given to the studies that have not been assessing environmental exposures before. Thanks to this measure, the number of researchers studying children’s environmental health is expected to increase even further.

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Jennifer Abbasi (2016). “NIH launches study of children’s environmental exposures.Journal of the American Medical Association 316:2077.

Virginia Guidry (2016). “NIH launches new programs for children’s environmental health.Environmental Factor, issue October 2016