NIH ECHO Program Overview – Dr. Matthew W. Gillman

ECHO is also called Environmental Influences
on Child Health Outcomes. And ECHO is a really important NIH program. Because what we’re trying to do in ECHO
is pinpoint early environmental factors— factors that occur at the earliest stages of human
development that may have impact on child health over a lifetime. And the way that we’re going to do that
is take advantage of cohorts. That is groups of children followed over time,
often along with their mothers or their fathers or other family members, to look at influences
that occur during pregnancy and infancy in early childhood and how they have an impact
on outcomes through childhood and adolescence. Investigating child health outcomes is a priority
for NIH and for our country because what we know is that there are in early developmental
stages our organs, our systems, our biology, our behavior, are plastic and they’re developing
at a rapid rate. And if we can find the ways to intervene during
that time then we have our opportunity to set children on better trajectories of health
throughout their lifetimes. One of the things we’re going to be doing
in ECHO is bringing together existing cohorts and their investigators and an important thing
for us to do is standardized data collection. We’ll be trying to do that with the data
that are already collected but also new data that can be collected in these cohorts of
children; so that we can combine these data over many, many children in the United States. And that’s really important for us to look
at many exposures the pathways, such as biological pathways, and the outcomes. And these outcomes may include: the outcomes
of pregnancy, they may include the risk of obesity, how our airways develop, and neurodevelopment—including
cognition behavior. In ECHO we’ll be focusing on the early environment. And by environment, I mean that broadly. We could be talking about air pollution and
chemicals in our neighborhoods. We could be talking about societal factors
like stress. Or even individual behaviors like sleep and
diet. And ECHO’s goal is to look at those not
only individually but also in combination. And by that, what we…. By doing that, what we hope to do is pinpoint
those modifiable factors where we can intervene to set kids on healthy trajectories for their
lifetimes. Every baby born deserves the best shot to
grow up healthy. And I’m really excited to be working with
many of our nation’s leading scientists to ensure that, that comes to fruition.

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