Colorado State University, in collaboration with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded $1.2 million to participate in a National Institutes of Health initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO).
The award is part of a planned seven-year grant with an estimated total value of $15 million for the Colorado participation. The funding was awarded to the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH), a partnership among CSU, CU and the University of Northern Colorado.
The ECHO program will investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development — from conception through early childhood — influences the health of children and adolescents. It is part of a $150 million NIH effort announced on Sept. 21.
The Colorado study will leverage an existing and ongoing pre-birth cohort in Colorado, Healthy Start, which is currently following 1,410 mother-child pairs.
Sheryl Magzamen, an assistant professor of epidemiology for ColoradoSPH and in CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, is CSU’s principal investigator on the study. She will lead the measurement and evaluation of Healthy Start participants’ exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants.
“Being able to add this element to an already rich study lets us better understand the role of the environment in childhood development,” Magzamen said. “A lot of adult disease has its roots in childhood, so this study may unlock clues for enhancing health, understanding the mechanics of disease, and improving environmental policies.”
The instruments that will be used for the study were developed by John Volckens, a professor of mechanical engineering at CSU and environmental and occupational health at the ColoradoSPH, and Professor Chuck Henry, head of CSU’s Department of Chemistry.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to deploy our wearable sensors on children,” Volckens said. “This technology was designed specifically to measure personal exposure to environmental stressors — something that’s critical for health protection but difficult to achieve at scale. Results of this study could have long-lasting impacts on improving the health of millions of children.”
Exposing the exposome
The overarching goal of the Colorado study is to determine the early life “exposome” — the entirety of environmental stressors that can impact one’s health across a lifetime. The study also aims to connect health outcomes with biological pathways that occur from the moment of birth through childhood.
“By continuing to longitudinally follow up the Colorado Healthy Start cohort and collaborating with the larger ECHO consortium, we will be able to expand the scope of our work by refining and incorporating additional components of the exposome, exploring changes in the composition and impact of the exposome over time, targeting additional childhood outcomes, and participating in large gene-environment interaction studies,” said Dana Dabelea, professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at CU Anschutz, director of the LifeCourse Epidemiology of Adiposity and Diabetes Center at ColoradoSPH, and principal investigator of the Colorado ECHO project. “It is our hope that this study will advance the scientific understanding of early life contributors to child health outcomes, and build a foundation for the development and evaluation of future prevention efforts.”
“Every baby should have the best opportunity to remain healthy and thrive throughout childhood,” said NIH Director Francis Collins. “ECHO will help us better understand the factors that contribute to optimal health in children.”
About the ColoradoSPH
The Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only accredited school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top-tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution towards ensuring the region’s health and wellbeing. Collaboratively formed in 2008 by the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases and costly injuries. Learn more and follow ColoradoSPH’s updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“It is really exciting to work for a multiple-campus school,” Magzamen said. “It brings the strengths of each of the campuses together. Our expertise in environmental exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology and CU’s expertise in lifecourse epidemiology are complementary.”