On November 9th and 10th, nearly 200 outstanding scientists came together to launch the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program—and it was a major success. Attendees felt genuine enthusiasm to be part of ECHO’s mission to enhance the health of our nation’s children, guided by the principles of teamwork, impact, responsibility, and value.
During his presentation, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., emphasized the special place for ECHO in the long history of NIH-sponsored, population-based, observational cohort and intervention research. Large sample sizes and new technologies are allowing us to zero in on answers to solution-oriented research questions in ways that were not possible just a few years ago.
I am so grateful for the engagement and productivity that I witnessed coming out of the working groups that we initiated at the Kickoff Meeting. Half of the groups started developing scientific hypotheses that ECHO Cohorts can achieve with existing data, even within our first year. These hypotheses prioritized the five ECHO focus areas: pre- and perinatal outcomes, child obesity, airways, neurodevelopment, and positive health outcomes.
The other half of the working groups focused on policies and practices—for data sharing, harmonization, and analysis; use of biospecimens; publications; and engagement—that we envision will drive best practices for conducting team science in the 21stcentury.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the meeting was the contributions of all six funded components of ECHO. In addition to the Cohorts, they include the IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network, the Children’s Health and Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) Core, the Patient-Reported Outcomes Core, the Data Analysis Center, and the Coordinating Center. Altogether they comprise 110 principal investigators and their institutions from more than 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These investigators, with my colleagues from across the NIH institutes, centers, and offices, will be instrumental in leading ECHO to achieve its long-term vision of becoming a pre-eminent research program in child health.
I encourage you to learn more about the goals of ECHO and watch highlights of the meeting here: https://youtu.be/Q2c1ncanSdI(link is external).