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NIH Launches ECHO Program

On September 21, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of the seven-year Environmental Influences on Children Health Outcomes (ECHO) program designed to “investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development–from conception through early childhood–influences the health of children and adolescents.” The agency planned to allocate $157 million in funding in fiscal year (FY) 2016 for ECHO. Presenting at the September 21 National Advisory Child Health and Human Development (NACHHD) Council, ECHO Director Matthew Gillman outlined the goals of the study. Gillman noted that the aims for ECHO are consistent with the agency’s goals for the now discontinued National Children’s Study, however, the approach is different.
In addition to examining such exposures as air pollution, ECHO will also examine “societal factors such as stress, to individual behaviors like sleep and diet.” The program will use the Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program to create pediatric clinical research networks in rural and medically underserved areas in an effort to allow children in these areas the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. The ECHO infrastructure will include: pediatric cohorts, a coordinating center, a data analysis center, the Children’s Health and Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) core, a Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) core, and an IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network (ISPCTN), which has been funded up front for four years.
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Posted in Issue 19 (October 4), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

New Academies Report on Parenting Offers Recommendations for Future Research

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report, Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8, which compiles evidence on how demographic changes and advances in technology are changing parenting practices. The report reviews current research on effective parenting and offers ten recommendations for federal agencies and organizations at state and local levels to improve their efforts to educate parents on the means of effective parenting. While the report acknowledges that there is no single approach to best reach and educate parents on how to raise children, it offers guidelines and methods for agencies to follow to ensure interventions effectively target a variety of demographics and promote healthy child development.
The report’s findings include recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Education, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), as well as state and local agencies. The recommendations identify ways to promote effective parenting by funding research on parenting, improving education efforts, and improving programs to better reach key demographics of parents.
Among the most notable findings for social and behavioral scientists is a recommendation that HHS, IES, and PCORI fund research to educate policy makers and program administrators on how to scale effective parenting programs. The report also recommends that these agencies evaluate existing methods of intervention and support basic and applied research to identify ways to reach parents not well-served by existing programs. The targeted populations include fathers who were not involved in mother-only interventions; parents in diverse groups where intervention practices have not previously been tested; and parents who need special services because of personal issues, such as mental illness. Evidence-based research would be able to fill the gap in providing effective interventions to these families and give insight into what policies and programs are needed in order to address the needs of parents in populations that have been marginalized and underrepresented.
 
This article was contributed by COSSA’s intern, Matthew Dobbs of the University of California, Davis.
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Posted in Issue 16 (August 9), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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