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.