ECHO Program Receives Green Light to Begin Expansive Child Health Research

Single institutional review board approves the NIH’s ECHO cohort research to proceed, which promises answers to high-impact research questions related to early influences on child health outcomes.

February 1, 2019

The Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program today announced it has received single institutional review board (sIRB) approval to begin its research under the ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol. The purpose of the sIRB is to ensure that research follows guidelines to protect participants. ECHO research will investigate the effects of a broad range of early exposures—including physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral, natural, and built environments—on child health and development.

“The sIRB approval of the ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol gives us the green light to start finding answers to important questions that will enhance the health of children for generations to come,” said ECHO Program Director Matthew Gillman. “We know that a child’s exposures from before birth through the first few years of life are tremendously formative, and yet, until now, child health research in this area has been limited, leaving us with lots of questions. We look forward to turning that tide.”

The ECHO-wide Cohort is made up of more than 70 individual cohorts, or groups, of mothers and children from ongoing research projects. Researchers follow participants through different life stages, some starting before birth and through adolescence. Together, they form a massive virtual “cohort of cohorts” that includes more than 50,000 children from diverse backgrounds across the United States. By bringing together data collected under a single protocol, ECHO researchers can answer high-impact, complex research questions.

Looking at the whole child

ECHO’s promise is not only in its breadth of data, but also its approach, which brings together multiple disciplines to address child health. Historically, many research projects have looked at children through a single, narrow lens. However, the body’s development process includes millions of interacting factors that all play a part in a child’s overall health. Researchers from 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia are involved in the ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol. These researchers bring expertise from hundreds of disciplines. As a result, knowledge from ECHO research can offer a richer understanding of child health and development to help guide a healthier, happier childhood for our nation’s children.

Emily Oken, of Harvard University and the principal investigator for an ECHO Pediatric Cohort Award, and David Cella, of Northwestern University and one of the principal investigators for the ECHO Person-Reported Outcomes Core, led the trans-disciplinary development of the ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol. They worked collaboratively with all ECHO components and gathered input through a public comment period. The research will include participants that are often excluded from traditional research, such as pregnant women, children, and caregivers. ECHO’s researchers hope that this wide view of the child will shed light on important patterns and trends in child health that have not been captured to date.

“It was a Herculean effort to develop a protocol of this scale with so many interacting variables,” said Gillman. “Through collaboration and a shared passion to enhance the health of all children, we are now positioned to begin this important work. Our team is energized and ready to go, and our nation’s children are waiting.”

ECHO-funded study sheds light on second- and third-hand smoke exposure in kids

A recent study funded by the ECHO Program, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and National Institute on Drug Abuse, shows that infants and toddlers in low-income, rural areas may be at higher risk for second- and third-hand smoke than previously reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Findings were dependent on the detectable presence of cotinine – the byproduct formed when the body breaks down nicotine – in the children’s systems.

Based on an analysis of saliva samples collected from 1,218 children, 15 percent were in the high exposure group when tested for cotinine, demonstrating levels that are comparable to active adult smokers. Forty-eight percent of the children classified as moderate exposure and 37 percent fell in the low exposure group.

Other key findings from the study include lower smoke exposure for children in center-based daycare facilities and higher smoke exposure for infants, compared with toddlers. This is partially attributed to crawling and infants’ tendencies to put objects into their mouths. Additionally, according to the study, “lower income, less education, frequent residential moves and fluctuations in the number of adults within the home were associated with high smoke exposure.”

“Our results, if supported by future studies, can help educate parents and caregivers, as well as improve prevention programs that seek to reduce children’s smoke exposure,” said Clancy Blair, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, and the senior author of the study.

The study was published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research December 5, 2018.

JOURNAL OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHIATRY

Research Review: Intergenerational transmission of disadvantage: epigenetics and parents’ childhoods as the first exposure

Scorza P, Duarte CS, Hipwell AE, Posner J, Ortin A, Canino G, Monk C.

Show Details

Scorza P, Duarte CS, Hipwell AE, Posner J, Ortin A, Canino G, Monk C. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 23. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12877. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed PMID: 29473646

Topics: Epigenetics

THE JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS

Advancing the Science of Children’s Positive Health in the National Institutes of Health Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Research Program

Forrest C, Blackwell C, Camargo CA Jr.

Show Details

Forrest C, Blackwell C, Camargo CA Jr. J Pediatr. 2018 May;196:298-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.02.004. Epub 2018 Mar 19. PubMed PMID: 29567045

Topics: Positive Health

‘Current Opinion in Pediatrics’ Publishes Seven Manuscripts from ECHO Program

The April 2018 issue of Current Opinion in Pediatrics features seven manuscripts authored by and about the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) research program, supported by the National Institutes of Health. Readers can find each of the manuscripts, one from each active ECHO Program Component, in the journal’s “Therapeutics and Toxicology” section. Together, they offer readers a glimpse into ECHO’s mission and progress from diverse vantage points.

Current Opinion in Pediatrics gives us a forum to showcase how each of ECHO’s Components is working collectively toward the ECHO mission to enhance the health of children for generations to come,” said Matthew Gillman, ECHO program director, National Institutes of Health. “We developed ECHO on the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That premise applies equally to the ECHO Cohorts and the IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network. Their combined intellectual capital, disciplines, innovation, and analyses will bring us closer to our mission than individual cohorts or clinical trial sites could ever reach alone. I am inspired by the work across all ECHO Components to bring this premise to life.”

Current Opinion in Pediatrics is a great platform for ECHO. As a publication that spans all the subspecialties and primary care, it represents a product that is more than the sum of its parts, just like ECHO,” said Robert Wright, the publication’s editor. “It is critical for the pediatric health care community to learn about ECHO and the exciting work that will one day change the way pediatrics is practiced.”

Readers can access all seven articles electronically in the journal’s April 2018 (volume 30, issue 2) publication or via the links below:

 

NIH Releases Report Summary of ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol Request for Information (RFI) Responses

On August 11th, 2017 the NIH published an RFI seeking feedback from stakeholders and the general public on the ECHO-wide Cohort Data Collection Protocol. The RFI specifically requested feedback and recommendations on the data element concepts, types of biospecimens, and innovative data collection methodology. The NIH received a number of responses from researchers, professional organizations, nonprofit organizations, and research foundations. View the responses to this RFI here. The NIH thanks all responders for their input.

NIH-Funded Study to Focus on Newborns Affected by Opioids

 

Experts plan clinical trial to test treatments for withdrawal syndrome.

The National Institutes of Health is funding a new study to evaluate treatment options for newborns with opioid withdrawal syndrome, a condition caused by exposure to opioids during pregnancy. Currently, health care providers in the United States lack standard, evidence-based treatments for neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, despite states reporting more cases in recent years. The study, called Advancing Clinical Trials in Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (ACT NOW), aims to inform clinical care of these infants.

ACT NOW is funded by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the NIH Office of the Director’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program.

Opioids are a class of drugs commonly prescribed for pain relief. Prescriptions for these drugs have quadrupled since 1999 in the United States, putting more reproductive-age women at risk of developing opioid use disorder. Use of these drugs during pregnancy can affect the health and well-being of women and lead to withdrawal symptoms in newborns. Symptoms often include tremors, excessive crying, sleep deprivation and swallowing difficulties.

Read the full press release here to learn more about this study.